Here's my big essay for UChicago's supplement. I would really appreciate anyone who takes the time to go through and scrutinize my work. I will return the favor, don't worry. :)
The answer to my question has become very clear to me as I have gotten older. What exactly is the question, however? It is very difficult to phrase; the exact wording of it often eludes me. Only through a significant amount of thinking have I been able to come up with what I feel is a succinct, well-phrased version of my question: why is learning important, and what do I want to study the most? This difficult, philosophical question is fundamental to how I live my life. I have always had a desire to learn unparalleled by my classmates. I do care about good grades, but it seems to me that many people care about learning only because of grades. In fact, I believe one should care about learning for the sake of learning. Learning is an intrinsic good, just as happiness is. One should learn to become more knowledgeable, to become a person of the world, to become as much as one possibly can during the relatively short number of trips around the sun we all complete.
Learning is important for several obvious and not-so-obvious reasons. The clear benefits of learning are more practical: going to college and graduate school helps one obtain a job and hopefully success. That one is obvious. A second obvious benefit is social. Well-read people are able to enhance discussions with references to great works, such as Dostoevsky's Crime and Punishment or Homer's The Iliad. Having taken a course on such great works, I found it invaluable to be able to understand the plethora of allusions to great works that are often made. Being knowledgeable opens up an entirely new world of thought, and that is a fact that many people overlook.
So what exactly are the most important topics of study? To me, music, philosophy, and the brain are three very different topics that all merit a lifetime of study. I find that I can express myself through music, and that it is an exceptionally powerful outlet for creativity. Philosophy provides a means for me to use all of my knowledge to contemplate various life issues. I aspire to become a neurosurgeon because it will allow me to better understand the brain while having a huge impact on people's lives.
I have been playing music since a very young age, and I have been listening to it even before I was born-my mother, a professional harpist, gave concerts even while pregnant! I credit her with sparking my intense passion for music. I started playing the cello at age 10, and then moved to the guitar at 12. I began studying jazz guitar and came to appreciate music in an ineffable way; the degree to which the guitar has opened up my eyes to many different styles of music and to music theory is tremendous. Jazz in particular appeals to me in that it requires an extraordinary amount of creativity to play, which makes playing the guitar such an exhilarating experience. Though I do not intend to turn music into a career, I do plan on keeping music an integral part of my life.
Philosophy is my most recent intellectual pursuit. Before my junior year in high school I had no idea that philosophy was so interesting. My junior year I took a philosophy course and loved it so much that I enrolled in a Harvard Extension School course in Biomedical Ethics. This way I could continue studying philosophy but at the same time combine it with my interest in medicine. Philosophy is an extremely rewarding study in that it is interesting to read and then analyze philosophers' stances on life issues. My writing and reading comprehension skills have improved immensely. Philosophy is my intended major and I believe that college provides the perfect environment for me to pursue my varied interests before I go into neurosurgery.
The brain has always been particularly intriguing to me. It is astounding to me how a few chemical reactions result in such a wide variety of creative and intellectual pursuits. At first I just wanted to be a neurologist and do research, but I later decided that it would be more fulfilling to acquire hands-on experience as a neurosurgeon first and to then do research afterwards. What is amazing to me is the effect that music has on the brain. By studying the music-brain connection I can combine two of my passions. I see the potential for discovery as well as the opportunity to make an impact on many people's lives.
To me, knowledge is what gives life meaning. The three disciplines listed here-music, philosophy, and neuroscience-are what I am truly passionate about. It is unimaginable to me how anyone could go through life without aspiring to gain as much knowledge as possible. After all, we only live one time, and I believe that we might as well learn as much as we can while we have the chance.