Computer Passion and a Gutenberg Education

by James Simas


I’ve always been fascinated with computers. I can still vividly remember the day when my father brought home our new Windows 95 laptop and turned it on in our kitchen. He showed me how you use it to play music, browse the internet, and (perhaps most important to an eight-year-old) play checkers with cartoon frogs. I was hooked.

From there on out, I invested a significant amount of free time in trying to understand this fascinating object. My interest in and skill with computers grew until, several years later, I saved up money one summer from mowing lawns and bought my own computer in the fall of 2001. I was fourteen.

Over the next couple of years, I decided that I would continue expanding my knowledge and began considering going to college for a computer science degree. In spite of these aspirations, I was persuaded by my loving parents to try out Gutenberg for “just one year.” They said that if I did not want to continue there after my trial run, they would help me move to another school in the career of my choice.

With this promise in mind, I began attending Gutenberg in 2004. When my first year was finished, I decided that it would be worth my time and energy to see it through to the end. I graduated from Gutenberg in 2008 and now work for Symantec, a software company, as a technical support engineer.

When I tell people my higher education background, I often receive surprised reactions. An education in philosophy, history, and liberal arts is not often seen as beneficial or relevant to my line of work. While it is true that not everything I learned at Gutenberg is relevant to my career, I believe that Gutenberg was an excellent investment of my time and energy. Gutenberg helped me grow as a human being in a way that technology does not, and, given the choice, I would do it again.

Although my experience at Gutenberg helped and changed me in too many ways to count, the two things I most appreciate are that it caused me to ask (and begin answering) many questions about existence, and it gave me a more mature perspective on technology. Let me explain.

First, while reading through the Great Books, many of my ideas, beliefs, and assumptions about reality were repeatedly challenged by some of the greatest authors of Western civilization. For example, David Hume’s proposal that we cannot know the cause of phenomena began in me a long process of fleshing out my own views on epistemology. While I’ve ultimately concluded that Hume’s conclusions are incorrect (I think we can know causes), the process of internal dialogue it took to reach this conclusion has helped me better understand the world, sharpened my intellect, and allowed me to articulate my position (and the reasoning behind it) better than I would have been able to otherwise.

Furthermore, since the authors of the Great Books speak on an amazing array of topics—ranging from ethics and politics to theology (to name a few)—I have been similarly challenged in other areas of my life. This process has deepened my understanding of many important aspects of life and has proved extremely rewarding.

Second, my time at Gutenberg changed my perspective on technology and computers significantly. Prior to Gutenberg, I had allowed these interests to infiltrate every aspect of my life, and I had few interests outside of them. Several of the works I read in my time at Gutenberg (specifically, those by the French philosopher Jacque Ellul) caused me to view computers (and all technological progress) in a different light.

I began to realize that technology, in spite of all the amazing benefits it can bring, says nothing about the maturity of a society. A technologically advanced society can also be spiritually, morally, and teleologically bankrupt. This realization helped me see that I need to be sure to also invest my time in things which will benefit my soul, even if it means less time spent with my passion.

With this in mind, I’ve begun focusing more of my time and energies on projects and friendships which nurture and grow me into a more mature human being. While this has not been an easy change to make, I feel it is worthwhile.

In conclusion, Gutenberg has helped me critically examine my fundamental beliefs and, in doing so, helped me relegate computers and technology to a more appropriate place in my life. This experience and Gutenberg’s project has benefited me in ways which will last my entire life. My four years at Gutenberg changed me in ways that I will forever appreciate.

 

Copyright May 2012 by McKenzie Study Center, an institute of Gutenberg College.

James Simas