I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious. Albert Einstein
I grew up watching Star Trek — the original one! I had a deep love of all those great characters: Captain Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy, Scotty . . . I thrilled with the opening lines: “Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the Starship Enterprise. Its five-year mission — to explore strange new worlds, to seek out new life and new civilizations, to boldly go where no man has gone before!” I whet my curiosity on the stone of this show and these characters who risked much because they just had to know what was out there! Of course Star Trek is just fiction, but I have also had real people in my life who showed me what curiosity-lived-out looked like. People who read widely, travelled, asked questions, took classes. ‘What if?’ they wondered.
Scripture, too, is rife with stories of the curious. Picture Zacchaeus, running ahead in a crowd, doing the undignified, climbing a tree – because he just had to see Jesus! (Luke 19). His curiosity paid off with a Jesus-encounter that would forever change his life. While others around him had ossified (doing the dignified, carefully considered, safe thing when considering Jesus), Zacchaeus stayed open to what ‘might be’. We don’t often use Zacchaeus as a suggested role-model for how to live life – but here he got it just right!
Do you think of yourself as ‘curious’? What do you wonder about? In this time and place, what inclines you to remain curious, to keep investigating, keep listening?
We currently live in a culture that has infinite access to information of any kind. Things are different from my Star Trek days. No longer do you have to go find a book at a library to satisfy a question. Or attend a class taught by an expert on a topic you want to be informed about. Instead, at the click of a button, you can go on the Inter-web to be informed or to satisfy your curiosity, accessing information and opinions unending. At one level, this is awesome! I often find myself saying, “Who needs to wonder about anything anymore? I’ll just look it up!” (right now! in the middle of our conversation! yahoo!) It’s all so (dreadfully) convenient!
So how do we remain curious in this era of over-information? Shouldn’t more information, easily accessed, feed curiosity? Let me suggest two challenges and one encouragement, as we investigate the fate of curiosity.
First, when you or I google something on our device-of-choice, we are having a moment of curiosity. We want to know about something! However, our browser is smart (as it were). It already senses which side of a topic or issue we generally listen to. So (in an effort to help us) it continues to feed us articles and blogs that support and reinforce what we already think. The technical term for this is ‘confirmation-bias’. The dilemma, over time, is that I cease to be curious. I am not looking for new ideas, or to hear a voice I have not listen to before, or to be challenged by a different perspective. I may think I am curious, when in fact I only ever hear one side of a broader picture, inclining me to reduce the world to polarized black and whites. Is this true for you?
Second, hurry is the enemy of curiosity. (Actually, hurry is the enemy of just about everything we care about). On a complete tangent, I recently read an article about ‘stupidity’, and the number one thing that inclines people to actions that are less than wise is hurry! For example — Yo-Yo Ma leaves his $30,000 cello in the trunk of his taxi cab, because he’s late and rushing to a concert he’s performing at! Inconceivable, right?! But I digress. Curiosity requires a certain amount of ‘white space’. At certain stages of life, that space is more or less difficult to find. But it always remains a choice. We most often find time for the things we value.
Let me leave you with a challenge. If curiosity has the potential to make life richer, deeper, more satisfying, then ask yourself, what am I currently interested in or wondering about? Then take the time to learn about it, or learn to do it! Trade babysitting with a friend, and take that class. Or get some friends together, and go on that adventure. Find out what podcasts people are recommending, and listen to one while you go for your daily walk. Or read some of the top 10 books off McLean‘s book list. Join a book club with people from your neighbourhood and discuss books with a diverse group of people. Find someone who thinks about issues different than you and listen to them (no really, I mean it, listen to them). What might you learn from this person? Do something that helps you meet a different group of people. What would stir your curiosity?
God created this world and declared it “good”! He made the earth as His temple and put us in it as His image-bearers. We carry the gift of being able to create, and were given the task of using that gift for the betterment of the world. So stay curious, my friends. Make yourself, and the world thereby, a richer, deeper, more satisfying place to be!
Cheering you on!