And So It Goes has evolved over the years.
A year or so ago, I began to focus on the triad Curiosity, Compassion, and Courage as a mantra for the posts I share. I’ve been gratified to see how my commenters have also adopted elements of these three. I have great readers, wonderful subscribers, and fine friends. I am truly grateful for all of you.
I thought it worth exploring what I mean by these three words. I hope you’ll share your take on them as well.
This week we’ll look at curiosity, for in my mind, so much begins with simple curiosity.
Where does curiosity begin? Can we cultivate it?
If you have the answers to these questions, I’d love to hear. What I do know about curiosity is that there’s energy, a visceral excitement in my body that hits me when I become aware I’m on the brink of something new — whether it’s learning something new, meeting someone new, or experiencing something new. I like it.
I call that energy, curiosity.
It’s like jumping off that high dive again, into a pool of the unknown and I relish those moments.
Here’s the photo I used with my very first blog post, in January 2013.
The process of learning has always attracted me. In grammar school, I loved discovering what I didn’t know, for it meant the beginning of a new adventure. I felt a buzz when I discovered I could articulate my quandary sufficiently to begin exploration.
World renowned genius, Albert Einstein, seems to have said,
I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.
It must be true, for there’s an image for it.
Francis Lappé, in her 2005 paperback, You Have the Power: Choosing Courage in A Culture of Fear, writes of curiosity this way:
You may do something not because you’ve thought about whether it is the right thing to do but because you feel drawn to it; you are curious.
Curiosity, by definition, requires a gap in our understanding, an unknown. And, as I’ve written before (see Taking a Vague Obscure Glance at Ambiguity), human beings are inclined to fill in those gaps.
However, there’s a bit of a danger involved with satisfying our curiosity. Pulled to fill that gap, we seek an explanation quickly, whether there’s good evidence for it or not.
Some believe we feel afraid of that gap, that emptiness. For those who do, American Buddhist monk, Pema Chödrön says,
Curiosity deflects fear’s energy into fuel for exploration.
So often we feel fear and assume it means “STOP.” For me, I have begun to see fear as “my cue” that it’s time to jump in. My curiosity motivates me to do just that, though not always. Skydiving, for example, has still not piqued my interest enough to actually do it.
What is essential in this thrust to understand, is that I set aside my judgment, my desire to explain.
Curiosity, I’ve come to believe, is the ability to engage without judgment.
In An Intimate History of Humanity (1994), Theodore Zeldin writes,
The most successful remedy for fear has been curiosity.
That is powerful. And I can attest to its truth.
Curiosity, for me, has become the single piece that enables me to listen to someone with whom I know I disagree. When I hear myself wondering “how in the world can they believe that?” without judgment (with wonder, instead, perhaps), I can then meet them on a human level, connect with them, and hear what lies beneath the words.
And, that, as we must know by now, is the beginning of a genuine conversation.
Again, from Francis Lappé:
Listening to our curiosity . . . means only one thing: creating space so that we can just listen.”
I grew up hearing how curiosity killed the cat. How it caused great havoc in Pandora’s life, something about it being better to keep her secret box closed. We equate curiosity with being nosey, butting in where we don’t belong.
That’s unfortunate. I wonder where that started . . . . . .
And I’m off again . . .
How about you? Where does curiosity fit into your world? How do you respond to it?
Next time: Compassion
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