On Being Curious

Curiosity is a trait we tend to associate with children (and dead cats). Most of us want our kids to be active learners, to take an interest in the world around them, and to ask questions (to a certain extent, before we get a “BUT WHY” headache and pap them off onto the nearest available parent/grandparent/computer game/tv show/shiny thing).

In adults, the trait of curiosity tends to take a back seat. We often accept answers we are given with little or no questioning, and “that’s just the way it is” can be seen as a satisfactory explanation for all sorts of phenomena. Information is something to be absorbed when required, not explored for the fun of it. After all, grown-ups have enough to worry about (work/family/finances/housing/bills/food/childcare/ holidays/work/repeat) than to take precious time out of their exhausting day to question and wonder about what exactly is going on in the world around them.

Just to illustrate this point, here are some Google image results (Genuine first page of results, and they are better than I could ever have hoped):

"Curious Child"

“Curious Child”

curious adults

“Curious Adult”

I think we should give more time and appreciation to being curious. It is a wonderful trait to have. If you can look at a flowerbed in a park and see not just pretty petals but an ecosystem, the insects and birds that are manipulated by the petals to aid their own pollination, the season in which those particular flowers come into bloom, and the creatures that live in the soil beneath them, your brain will be engaged for longer. When you walk past a Chihuahua (other tiny dogs are available), notice not just how adorable it is, but that this toattie wee pup has evolved directly from wolves, in a line of selectively bred species which only came into existence in the last few thousand years. How long ago did it become its own breed? Which of its traits have been selected for? ARE ITS EYES BIGGER THAN ITS BRAIN??

Since my childhood my mother has always asked me, with varying degrees of exhaustion and sincere marvel, “doesn’t your mind ever stop?” No, it doesn’t, ma’. And I like it that way. I love to learn, and I value knowledge and understanding above many other things. I am never bored because I know I can never know everything, there are always new things to absorb and discover. Even as I write this, I am sitting outside and there is a plane flying overhead. Even though I have studied how aeroplanes fly in a fair amount of detail (mostly as a strategy to get over my fear of flying), I will never take for granted how amazing it is that every day we send thousands of people thousands of feet into the sky in a mechanical rocket-bird and in 99% of cases, nothing goes wrong. How does that happen? What speed does a plane have to be going before it falls out of the sky? I see two planes in the same section of the sky – how far apart are they in reality? How close can planes get before it’s considered a danger?

It’s ok to be curious. I’d argue that it’s better than ok – that it’s part of a recipe for a healthy and happy mind. Being skeptical needn’t mean being pessimistic, and questioning everything needn’t be pedantic. We have so much information at our disposal nowadays that we have forgotten how to figure things out for ourselves. Don’t get me wrong – there’s absolutely nothing wrong with using Wikipedia to answer a burning question – it’s a resource I’d be lost without – but we often forget to ask the question in the first place. We know all the information is accessible, so we take it for granted without actually finding it.

Embrace your inner child. Look at things a little closer, allow yourself to wonder just a little bit deeper. It might make you happier, it might not, but it works for me.

Tagged , , , ,

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: