Bootstrapping Knowledge

Every computer uses an operating system, like Windows, or Unix, or Linux, or Mac OS.  An operating system is important because it decides what computer resources (processor, memory, disk space) will be used by what program at what time.  Who decides what resources the operating system gets?  When the computer is turned on, a small program stored in read-only memory (memory that persists even when the computer is turned off), tells the computer to load the operating system from the hard drive into memory.  Why is this small program put in read-only memory?  So that it can’t be altered, like information on the hard drive.  How does the computer know to go to that small program in read-only memory?  The creator of the computer wired it up that way.  Because the small program in read-only memory is much smaller than the entire operating system, this practice came to be known as “bootstrapping,” later shortened to “booting,” as in “pulling one’s self up by one’s bootstraps”

I was thinking about mentioning this when I wrote about Step 44 in Steps to Knowledge.  There was a sentence which said “You seek your strength, and you use it to find your strength.”  That seemed (and still seems) to be self-referential to me.  It also seems a little self-referential at first glance that an operating system should load itself.  But on closer examination, the loading takes place because the computer is following the instructions in read-only memory, which it only “knew” to do because its creator designed it that way.

There was another idea like this in Step 48, “True instruction is available to me.”  The step said “You must love yourself to become a student of Knowledge and continually love yourself to proceed.”  Step 18 said that if I came into the proximity of Knowledge, I would become more whole, more consistent, more honest, more devoted, more concentrated, more self-disciplined, more compassionate and more self-loving.  It’s as if I had to find a tiny smidgen of Knowledge, or some of its qualities, within myself to start a virtuous cycle of approaching Knowledge, and obtaining the qualities which would allow me to approach further.

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