Here I am once again with another lesson from “The Alabaster Girl” by Zan Perrion. If you haven’t noticed by now, I have a tendency to get fixated on one idea or source. That’s probably why I heard the expression “you’re beating a dead horse” quite often while growing up, but I digress.
The key idea I want to talk about today is the importance of curiosity. Perrion makes some pretty bold statements about curiosity throughout the book. Here are a few of them:
“Curiosity is the wonderment of life. It is the sense of adventure in our soul. It is learning to cultivate profound interest in the journey itself, the learning, the surprise. It is the essential ingredient in every dynamic interaction in life. It is infectious.”
“Curiosity is underrated. Curiosity is misunderstood. It is not about seeking answers. It is about seeking mystery. Always and forever seeking mystery. A great life is one of mystery. A great life is one of mystery, not answers. We have this packet of answers in our hand. Now what is the greater mystery?”
“Intelligence is curiosity. It is that and only that. If you are curious, you are intelligent. If you are not curious, you are not intelligent. In fact, politically correct be damned, I will say it straight: A general lack of curiosity is a general lack of intelligence. I will even go so far as to say that a general lack of curiosity is the worst of all traits.”
I was pretty bored with life in general when I read those words. Studying abroad had been my one brief period of excitement – where I literally felt like a little kid exploring a magical land – but now I was back in school, back to my mundane routine.
However, his emphasis on a sense of wonder and adventure really struck a chord with me. It made me realize that I wasn’t bored because my life was boring, but because of my apathetic attitude towards life. Sure, I was stuck in the classroom again. But I rarely showed more interest in my studies than what was needed to get a decent grade, and my interests outside of the classroom were confined to a few things at most. I wasn’t at all curious about life or the people around me.
If I wanted to feel that “wonderment of life,” I had to start actively being curious about the world around me, no matter how normal or mundane it seemed. I needed to cultivate a childlike curiosity towards the world.
This is something I still believe. Whenever I find myself feeling bored or like I’m just grinding through life, I try to get a little more curious. But not just curious in the sense of, “Why is the sky blue?” or “What is trickle-down economics?” I also like the way curiosity is described in that second quote: “It is not about seeking answers. It is about seeking mystery.”
As someone who naturally tends to over-intellectualize things, I find it easy to focus more on answers than the questions themselves. That’s how our schools condition us, isn’t it? Whoever knows the most answers passes the class. He who can list the most facts is the most intelligent. But sometimes that focus on answers does more harm than good. We get so caught up in proving what we know that we lose sight of the beauty in what we don’t know.
This may sound like I’m against education or knowledge in general. I promise you that’s not the case. This is coming from the perspective of someone who over-intellectualized things to the point of exhaustion. You know, the person who, instead of just laughing at a funny joke, has to analyze what made it funny in the first place. Or the one who tries to explain love in terms of chemical reactions (okay, maybe I wasn’t THAT bad…but it’s a good example of what I’m talking about). It’s not that the person is wrong or bad for thinking about those things, he or she just isn’t very fun to be around. That “answer-based” way of thinking can suck the joy out of life.
So it’s not that looking for answers is bad, it’s that we also need to look for the mystery in life. That mystery lies in bigger questions, questions like, “Why are we here?” or “What makes a truly fulfilling life?” They inspire us to look at the world with fresh eyes and maybe even freak out a bit at how little we actually know.