We NEED to know: even approximate knowledge can advance all the biological needs subordinate to self-actualization (being “all we can be”).   Recall Aristotle, the epigraph in A&O notes on The Need to Know:  “All men by nature desire to know.”[ii]   (and learning is a journey)

Most deeply inspired, however, by WONDER which in and of itself is sought not merely a question, but a state of joy in the possibilities of the unknown:  For example, contemplating a Grecian Urn, the poet (John Keats) “asks question after question about the urn, not to uncover facts or ‘answers’, but rather to sustain his experience of wonder and curiosity.”  (the poem; Aparna Chivukula in https://aeon.co/

As in the journey IS the destination, we can say, the question IS the answer.  It is often said that “Seeking is the goal and the search is the answer” (sometimes attributed to Emerson (but see quote investigator) and most poignantly, the collection of excerpts from the journal of Dan Eldonthe journey is the destination  (Chronicle Books, 1997; ISBN 10: 0811815862).  see also in A&O notes on process-and-product and A&O notes on knowledge and truth

(See more at A&O quote about Einstein’s philosophy)

  • The Pursuit of Goals … movement, hopefully progressive … toward one horizon after another
    • “Plans are useless, but planning is indispensable” (Dwight D. Eisenhower, quoted in NYT, Nov 15, 1957)  ( [resonates with the idea that the journey is the destination (attributed to Emerson)]
    • The pursuit of any goal is a little like writing out your narrative: “Writing is an exploration. You start from nothing and learn as you go. The New York Times (20 October 1985) AND “Writing is like driving at night in the fog. You can only see as far as your headlights, but you can make the whole trip that way.”—E.L. Doctorow, Interview in Writers at Work (1988) Recalls the “logic of the lamppost” or The Streetlight Effect[i].
  • Always out of reach? 
    • Speak as they please, what does the mountain care? / Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, / Or what’s a heaven for?(Robert Browning)[[1]]
    • “…Franz Wright pursues revelation. The Pulitzer-Prize winning poet (son of James Wright) writes “as if there were a word just out of reach, beyond the words on the page. He calls that goal: some radiantly obvious thing I need to say, though quite what that might be escapes me at the moment, as it always has, and always will.” (2006).[ii]
    • AND perhaps it always should be.  DO WE NEED GOALS? Do they create the tunnel vision that obscures alternative, possibly more effective or efficient ways of moving forward?  Growth, personal growth, self-actualization is another domain in which the Goldon Mean obtains: too narrow in our progress or too wide? excessively focused or virtually aimless?  
    • These ideas resonate with the idea that PROCESSES are more important to the SELF than their PRODUCTS … no danger of stagnation, the cessation of change, death.        
    • Copied from A&O notes on PROCESS and PRODUCT.


Professor Emeritus, Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, The University of Tennessee, Knoxville.