Readings on Curiosity
by Fiona Heath
“Maybe answers are just resting places on the way to better questions.” Mark Causey
“I have no special talent. I am just passionately curious.” Albert Einstein
When we face a new situation our temptation is often to ask, “What do I like?” Do I like this new thing? Do I like these people? Do I like this set-up? Sometimes that’s a helpful question to ask. But it’s always good to ask, “What can I learn?” From this new thing, in this new life situation, on this new day—what can I learn? In this moment, like it or not, life is giving me the opportunity to learn more about the universe and about myself… Everything is a teaching, a chance to learn and practice. It’s a gift. But only if I stay open and curious. Even if it’s a rotten situation, nine times out of ten curiosity beats misery. Compassion always covers the rest.
Rev. Steve Garnaas-Holmes
I can live with doubt and uncertainty and not knowing. I think it’s much more interesting to live not knowing than to have answers that might be wrong. Richard Feynman
People go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering. St. Augustine
We can lean into worry’s opposite – curiosity. As Rabbi Marcia Prager teaches, where worry says, “oh no, what is going to happen?” curiosity says “oh wow! I wonder what will happen!” Rev. Kimberley Debus
I think curiosity is so important, and I think that it can be, you know, it’s so complicated for a lot of people to figure out how to be a Muslim or a Jew in America today, that if we can go with curiosity over fear and curiosity over assumptions and take that moment to really reach out to somebody else and say, “What does this mean to you and how does this feel when this happens?” And, “I heard this politician say this or I read this thing on a blog and what does it mean?” Malka Haya Fenyvesi
Creative living is choosing the path of curiosity over the path of fear. I think curiosity is our friend that teaches us how to become ourselves. And it’s a very gentle friend and a very forgiving friend, and a very constant one. Curiosity is an impulse that just taps you on the shoulder very lightly, and invites you to turn your head a quarter of an inch and look a little closer at something that has intrigued you. And it may not set your head on fire; it may not change your life; it may not change the world; it may not even line up with previous things that you’ve done or been interested in. It may seem very random and make no sense. …. Sometimes, following your curiosity will lead you to your passion. Sometimes it won’t; and then, guess what? That’s still totally fine. You’ve lived a life following your curiosity. You’ve created a life that is a very interesting thing, different from anybody else’s. And your life itself then becomes the work of art — not so much contingent upon what you produced, but about a certain spirit of being that, I think, is a lot more interesting, and also, a lot more sustainable. Elizabeth Gilbert
|When death comes|
like the hungry bear in autumn;
when death comes and takes all the bright coins from his purse
to buy me, and snaps the purse shut;
when death comes
like the measle-pox
when death comes
like an iceberg between the shoulder blades,
I want to step through the door full of curiosity,
what is it going to be like, that cottage of darkness?
And therefore I look upon everything
as a brotherhood and a sisterhood,
and I look upon time as no more than an idea,
and I consider eternity as another possibility,
and I think of each life as a flower, as common
as a field daisy, and as singular,
and each name a comfortable music in the mouth,
tending, as all music does, toward silence,
and each body a lion of courage, and something
precious to the earth.
When it’s over, I want to say all my life
I was a bride married to amazement.
I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.
When it’s over, I don’t want to wonder
if I have made of my life something particular, and real.
I don’t want to find myself sighing and frightened,
or full of argument.
I don’t want to end up simply having visited this world
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. There’s a reason for this. Curiosity is unruly. It doesn’t like rules, or, at least, it assumes that all rules are provisional, subject to the laceration of a smart question nobody has yet thought to ask. It disdains the approved pathways, preferring diversions, unplanned excursions, impulsive left turns. In short, curiosity is deviant. Pursuing it is liable to bring you into conflict with authority at some point, as everyone from Galileo to Charles Darwin to Steve Jobs could have attested. A society that values order above all else will seek to suppress curiosity. But a society that believes in progress, innovation, and creativity will cultivate it, recognizing that the inquiring minds of its people constitute its most valuable asset. In medieval Europe, the inquiring mind — especially if it inquired too closely into the edicts of church or state — was stigmatized. During the Renaissance and Reformation, received wisdoms began to be interrogated, and by the time of the Enlightenment, European societies started to see that their future lay with the curious and encouraged probing questions rather than stamping on them. The result was the biggest explosion of new ideas and scientific advances in history. The great unlocking of curiosity translated into a cascade of prosperity for the nations that precipitated it. Today, we cannot know for sure if we are in the middle of this golden period or at the end of it. But we are, at the very least, in a lull. Ian Leslie
I think, at a child’s birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity. Eleanor Roosevelt
What gets projects done for me is not inspiration. I have no idea what inspiration really is. I know that I get really curious about things, and when that gets mixed with rigor, a project gets completed. And that’s basically it, it’s that simple. When curiosity and rigor get together, something happens. And when one of these things [isn’t] there, nothing happens, or the project doesn’t really reach people. Andrew Zuckerman
“I suppose without curiosity a man would be a tortoise. Very comfortable life, a tortoise has.” Agatha Christie
“Millions saw the apple fall, but only Newton asked why.” Bernard Baruch
In this essay from Truthout, Eva-Marie Swidler argues for curiousity as a political act.
This Patheos post from Greg Richardson explores what it means to have spiritual curiosity.
Annie Mascalli uses curiosity as a spiritual practice to curb reactivity.
From CuriosityCulture an explanation of why our brains like curiosity.
November 01, 2019
April 05, 2019
March 29, 2019