“I have no special gift. I am only passionately curious.” ~ Albert Einstein
Einstein’s words are ingrained with a powerful truth. Everybody is born curious, but along the way we lose that ability to stay curious and simply go about doing our mundane activities. Children have this insatiable thirst for finding out more about the world, their surroundings, because for small children that is the way they learn more about themselves. They have this innate ability to look at everything with new eyes, until their programming takes over.
“Why is it like that, How does this work, What will this do,” we are asked multiple questions during the day by our 6-year-old son. He opens up his cars, his toys to see what is inside it, how is it made and how does it function, probing us on the how and why of things.
That is the steppingstone to gaining higher level of awareness, a precursor to higher knowledge, learning and achievement. Curiosity is the source of everything.
However, curiosity gets a bad rap, society looks to suppress that curiosity because it ‘only’ functions on order. Imagine if people all around us were as curious as Eve? What would have happened? Imagine if people were curious to explore new ways of healing themselves?
“Our oldest stories about curiosity are warnings: Adam and Eve and the apple of knowledge, Icarus and the sun, Pandora’s box. Early Christian theologians railed against curiosity: Saint Augustine claimed that “God fashioned hell for the inquisitive.” Even humanist philosopher Erasmus suggested that curiosity was greed by a different name. For most of Western history, it has been regarded as at best a distraction, at worst a poison, corrosive to the soul and to society.” ~ Ian Leslie, Curious
This society will collapse if everybody were curious to know about the world they live in, if they were curious to ask the right questions. There are different kinds of curiosity to delve deeper into the subject –
Types of Curiosity
Curiosity starts with the itch to explore. Babies are a classic example of exploration. Putting things in their mouth, trying to reach out to new things, the urge to touch everything they see, this is their way of exploring their world, by tasting it, by touching it – through their senses.
This attraction to everything novel is what is known as ‘diversive curiosity’. It encourages us to see things with new eyes, to seek out new experiences, meet new people.
In adults, the urge to check the new Insta reel, move from one tweet to the next, one video to the next feeds this diverse curiosity. But unless it is allowed to mature, transformed into something deeper and meaningful, it is futile and a waste of energy.
When diversive curiosity is channelised properly, in a more disciplined way, it becomes epistemic curiosity. It goes deeper into a subject to an extent that it becomes soul-satisfying.
As Ian Leslie says, “Epistemic curiosity is hard work; it involves sustained cognitive effort. That makes it tougher, but ultimately more rewarding. Just as the resistance offered by a tungsten filament to electrons generates light in a lightbulb, it’s the very difficulty of exercising epistemic curiosity that brings illumination.
Diversive curiosity makes us want to know what lies on the other side of the mountain; epistemic curiosity arms us with the knowledge we need to survive when we get there.”
Empathic curiosity is being curious about thoughts and feelings of others. When you step into the shoes of another person and try to see things from their perspective, it shows empathic curiosity.
It is diversive curiosity that takes us deeper into the ocean of knowledge, curiosity can fizzle out if it’s not channelised and nurtured appropriately.
Here are some best strategies for breaking out of that rut by cultivating different ways of staying curious that will ensure our survival in an increasingly complex world.
“Curiosity is a muscle — use it or lose it. It’s something that we consciously have to nurture in ourselves, in our families, in classrooms, at work.”
Stay hungry, stay foolish
Steve Jobs is a classic example of following his curiosity and intuition that helped him to make bigger strides in his life. The rest is history.
In his Commencement address delivered to Stanford University graduates, Jobs emphasised the need to ‘stay hungry, stay foolish’, get out of your comfort zone, keep learning new things, explore new ideas, and never stop learning. Basically, never let your curiosity fade away, keep moving, keep flowing!
We accept automatic answers, without asking why does a particular thing happen this way. The society and culture doesn’t support and encourage questions. When our 6-year old son continues asking questions, it’s not about giving him ready-made answers, or ‘this is the way it is supposed to be’ kind answers, but give him open-ended answers that will further fuel his curiosity and not allowed to atrophy.
Ask questions, sometimes without seeking for answers, but with the intention of exercising that curiosity muscle.
“Childhood curiosity is a collaboration between child and adult. The surest way to kill it is to leave it alone. Epistemic curiosity is not a “natural” state of mind requiring only the removal of obstacles to flourish, but a joint project that needs to be worked at.”
When was the last time you did something for the first time?
This one is a classic question and every time I think of it, it takes me back to questioning myself. On most days, we function out of auto mode, our subconscious mind. When you sit and pause and ponder over this question, you might realise that it has been a while since you did anything for the first time.
What are we waiting for? Do something that you have never done before. It can be cooking something new, go for a run, play a sport, record a video. This builds curiosity because doing something for the first time makes you curious to know the outcome, the feelings it brings up, the experience it gives you and so on. Isn’t that exciting?
Create for the sake of creating
“You don’t really have to have knowledge — what you have to have is curiosity.” ~ Maira Kalman
To create helps you to deal with your own fallacies. Write down about what delights you. You may not be Picasso or Mozart, but you are not required to be one. Simply create to create. Make something to remind yourself that you’re still alive. Make things to inspire others to do the same. Make something to learn more about yourself. Make something just for the heck of it and see how it makes you feel.
Allow yourself to be bored. Throughout life, there are situations where you are forced to do things or tasks that are extremely dull, boring or uninteresting.
In such a scenario, you need a bait – either it’s money at the completion of the task, or as a child you get an ice cream or a treat if you finish your homework, and so on. It’s the reward you are working for. What if you find ways to change this mundane activity into something that stimulates our curiosity, and once that happens, we’re more likely to spend time on it.
Honestly, cooking is something I am not very fond of, so the whole act of waking up in the morning to cook and pack food for my elder son can be boring and challenging. In order to make this mundane routine interesting, I often, search for recipes and try out something new, something different to eat which in turn feeds my curiosity and also makes this whole process more bearable.
Like Andy Warhol, the American visual artist, said, “I like boring things.” Warhol was known to transform the most boring object, like a can of soup – and made millions of people see it anew.
Another beautiful example is of a child brought up in slums with very little to no toys to play with will use the most ordinary object like a tin and make it into a playful drum that he enjoys and cherishes. It was the curiosity of the child that fuelled his imagination.
Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity
The video above is an amazing watch that complements the article perfectly, I hope you enjoyed it and have the power to move beyond your fear!
“The greatest virtue of man is perhaps curiosity.” ~ Anatole France
Don’t allow your life to become dull and lose its spark. Curiosity keeps the inner spark alive, feed it with fodder and nurture it with wonder, curiosity will be your antidote to happiness.
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