In a world where numerous languages exist, there are billions of words that can captivate people from different walks of life. Thus, I would not forward the idea that my favorite word is the most important word in this planet. However, I would like to demonstrate that my favorite word can span the depths of the Earth, take hold of history, and redirect the future. My favorite word is ENLIGTEN. From the Encarta World English Dictionary, there are three entries that attempt to give meaning to this word, “to give information,” to “free somebody from ignorance,” and to “to teach somebody religion” (MSN Encarta, 2007). But this word “enlighten” meant more than what these entries imply.
To enlighten involves more than the acquisition of knowledge or the liberation from ignorance or the profession of a religion, because the word predetermines a situation, a process, and an outcome.
First, becoming enlightened is not merely the acquisition of knowledge because to enlighten someone is beyond teaching. In my own personal life, I would rather be enlightened about an idea than being simply taught about it. Being taught is simply being informed about a concept. For example, I can be taught about American history and I may even appreciate the efforts and courage that our ancestors possessed in unifying the different states. But, if I was enlightened about American history, I would not just understand but feel within my blood the power of having dreams and of having convictions. Being enlightened is being moved to take action.
Second, becoming enlightened is not just to liberate a person from a certain form of ignorance. Being relieved of ignorance is simply a form of information acquisition. Being enlightened is being liberated from other deplorable situations. To enlighten is to fight prejudice. To enlighten is to dispute superstition. And to enlighten is to free the self from preconceived notions, biased influences, and emotional upheavals that interfere with the attainment of truth.
Third, becoming enlightened is not just obtaining a religion. Any person may acquire a religion but remained unenlightened. Most religions today are ritualistic in nature and lack the depth of what religions are supposed to be. Unfortunately, with the diversity of cultures, religion could not rule the actions of people. But an enlightened mind can direct a person’s action. Being enlightened is not just about knowing God. Being enlightened is about having an epiphany. It is an epiphany about the nature of man, the purpose of existence, the morality of life, and the spirituality of fellowship. All these elaborate meanings of the word “enlighten” come about because of three prerequisites: a predetermined situation, a specific process, and a desired outcome.
Not everyone is privileged to experience enlightenment. There must be a predetermined situation before enlightenment occurs. It is almost impossible to enlighten a relatively happy person. But a person who is exposed to a critical, desolate, or life-threatening situation can be enlightened. To enlighten such a person is to help that person scale the abyss from which he is trapped. This enlightened person has scanned the depths of the Earth.
An ignorant person cannot be enlightened. This is because enlightenment involves a specific process. To enlighten is to build on the previous knowledge. To enlighten is not the run-of-the-mill eureka episode. It is a drawn out, and sometimes painful process in which a person must reflect the whole vista of his life. And, after being enlightened, this person has held the history of all human sufferings in his hand.
And finally, to enlighten must produce desired outcomes. To enlighten a person is to prevent him from staying passive. To enlighten is to make this person realize that he must implement sweeping and sometimes radical changes, perhaps in his life or perhaps in his thoughts. For my part, the process of enlightenment has redirected my future.
MSN Encarta. (2007). Enlighten. Encarta ® World English Dictionary – North American Edition. Soho Square, London: Bloomsbury Publishing Plc. Retrieved August 11, 2007 at http://encarta.msn.com/encnet/features/dictionary/DictionaryResults.aspx?refid=1861608542