Essential Principles, Practices and Panaceas, A – Z: Curiosity

curiosity haiku

Curiosity is the essence of human existence. ‘Who are we? Where are we? Where do we come from? Where are we going?’… I don’t know. I don’t have any answers to those questions. I don’t know what’s over there around the corner. But I want to find out. Eugene Cernan

Curiosity about life leads to greater participation in it, and the more you engage with existence (or anything else, for that matter) the more satisfaction you will get from it.

We are innately curious; I’m frequently amazed when considering the discoveries and inventions that have come about because a questioning individual has gone beyond their immediate knowledge and experience. One such person was the genius known as Leonardo da Vinci; how I’d love to be able to travel back in time to meet this incomparable innovator.

I wonder what Leonardo would make of the World Wide Web and its capabilities? I used to find it mind-blowing that my son could play online games with people all over the globe; I’d find him speaking simultaneously to people in America, Japan and Sweden. Recently I have participated in Google Hangouts with people in Vietnam, Austria, Poland, Suriname, Brazil and South Africa; it astonishes me that many thousands of miles separate us and yet we are all able to come together in one place.

One area of curiosity that is, conceivably, neglected is curiosity about self-discovery. I know people who are so oblivious to their potential for growth that their curiosity falls more into the category of nosiness than interest; a kind of ego-based intrusiveness that includes prying into others’ business so that they can judge, criticise and (temporarily) feel better about their own perceived inadequacies.

Are these folk, some of whom fit Oscar Wilde’s assertion that: The public have an insatiable curiosity to know everything, except what is worth knowing afraid to know themselves? An absence of essence-based curiosity, that is openness to wider, more stimulating, interests, can lead to boredom – and worse.

My mum used to be quite closed-minded; in addition, my step-dad did everything for her with regard to the running of their household, to the extent that the term ‘learned-helplessness’ is applicable. When he died, she refused to write a cheque, or learn about even the simplest things, such as reading the gas meter. She was youthful-looking, a physically fit sixty-five year old who is now in a care home where nerve cells and tissue in her brain are becoming ever more mangled because she has Alzheimer’s.

I tried everything I could to help my mum realise that although she might never get over Bailey’s death, she could come to terms with it and make a life for herself, but to no avail. What happened with my mum gives credence to Tove Jansson’s statement:

It is simply this: do not tire, never lose interest, never grow indifferent—lose your invaluable curiosity and you let yourself die. It’s as simple as that.

Think about yourself and the people you know – would you say that you have an appetite for life? If not, what might whet your taste buds?

Eleanor Roosevelt suggested that it would be a good thing if, when a child is born, its mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow the child with the priceless gift of curiosity– but children are born with an abundant supply of the stuff. Then we ‘educate’ it out of many of them – sometimes before they’ve even gone to school. B. F. Skinner pointed out that: No one asks how to motivate a baby. A baby naturally explores everything it can get at, unless restraining forces have already been at work. And this tendency doesn’t die out, it’s wiped out.

It’s up to us to discover what sparks our curiosity; a mission made easier by knowing who we are. And it occurs to me that the more you know about yourself, the more you can know about humanity in general, which can only be a good thing. Curiosity, furthermore, leads to development in every area of your life; it stands to reason, then, that satisfying your curiosity is a path to fulfilment.

I’ll leave you with a thought from a curious chap, one Albert Einstein, whose probing led him to formulate theories that changed the way we view our universe:

The important thing is to not stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvellous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.

 

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