The Power of Curiosity

The Guadalquivir River in Seville, Spain

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.”

Wait…why is the sky orange?

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Constant Recovery

I recently wrote about how “The Alabaster Girl” by Zan Perrion helped me discover my desire for a life filled with beauty. Now I want to share another great insight I gained from that book.

“Doubt creeps in for all of us and we must recover. Constant recovery. Recovery every moment of every day. To stand back and say to ourselves, “No, that sliver of doubt does not serve me in any way whatsoever.” And phew! now we relax, for we have recovered. Three seconds later, doubt creeps right back in. The solution? Recover again. That’s just the way it goes. It never ends. We will never be rid of our reigning-in, play-it-safe, you-don’t-want-to-get-hurt self-talk. All we can do is shake hands with that cautioning voice, acknowledge it, and recover, recover, recover.”

I love the way Perrion describes recovery in this little excerpt. We usually think of recovery as something we have to go through after an addiction or illness, but it can also mean finding our center, mentally and spiritually, while dealing the stresses of daily life. For me, being centered means being present to the moment and connected with my core desires. It means finding the place within myself that can’t be affected by the external world, where a sense of calmness pervades all of my actions.

I think anchors are the perfect representation of being centered. They keep ships from drifting away, no matter how stormy the seas. 

Of course, staying centered is much easier said than done. Life provides us with countless obstacles every day. Doubts and anxieties. Stressful situations. Painful memories and expectations of future difficulties. All of these things cause us to lose our balance in life, and each time we have to pause and regain it. We have to recover.

My normal tendency is to let life’s obstacles push me off balance. But that’s not really the problem. We are all susceptible to life’s stormy weather. That’s just part of being human. The problem is that we view those off-balance moments as failures. We dwell on them and wonder why we can’t stay centered all the time. Why can’t we just be perfect?

That’s why I find that quote so empowering. The mindset it offers is like a more grounded version of “do your best.” Instead of trying to be perfect all of the time, we can simply commit to finding our center over and over again. Accept and recover. Accept and recover.

And if you really think about it, that’s all we can do. Perfection is impossible. Getting knocked on our asses – mentally and physically – is inevitable. But we always have the choice to pause and recover.

To Be Seduced by Life…

It may sound weird, but I believe certain influences – people, books, ideas – come into our lives exactly when we need them. These influences can change us in ways we never imagined.

My first experience with this was when I read “The Power of Now” in the summer of 2013. That book helped lift me up from a sea of misery and unconsciousness. My next experience was barely six months later when I came across “The Alabaster Girl” by Zan Perrion. It’s this experience that I want to talk about here.

A Very Important Year

My senior year of college was a very interesting one for me. When I returned home from studying in Madrid three months earlier, I was consumed by wanderlust. But the reality of my last year as a student quickly pushed thoughts of travel and adventure to the back of my mind. Being a senior meant it was time convert those years of academic stress into a high-paying job, and most of my friends and peers seemed dedicated to that cause. Days into the first semester I was already hearing talk of job applications and potential interviews. The pressure was on.

That pressure did little to motivate me, though. Despite the urgent and practical nature of getting a good job, I felt absolutely zero passion for that goal. Actually, I felt the opposite of passion. Getting a typical job sounded like a straight bore.

At the time, I was convinced that my lack of enthusiasm for finding a job was just a sign of laziness, and there might have been some truth to that. The thought of sitting in an office and trying to focus for eight hours a day gave me the chills. However, my core problem was one of passion. Looking at all the jobs I could apply to, there wasn’t a single one that inspired the slightest bit of excitement in me. And in the back of my mind, I could feel the desire to see the world nagging at me.

The Spark that Lit the Fire

I read “The Alabaster Girl” about halfway through my senior year. Ironically, my motivations for reading it were not at all related to finding passion in my life. The author, Zan Perrion, was a well-known dating coach, and all I was expecting were some tips on how to meet women. What I found was something entirely different.

It’s hard to say what the book’s main theme is. It centers around the author’s profound love for women and seduction, but themes of beauty, passion, and the spirit of adventure are interwoven throughout. I guess you could describe it as a wise man’s musings on what it means to live a truly magical life. Women just happen to be the primary source of magic for the author.

While I did resonate with Perrion’s talk of romance and seduction, it was his views on beauty that really struck a chord with me. “Beauty needs a witness,” he repeats throughout the book, and in describing his worldview he paints a picture of a man entirely in love with life and all the beauty it has to offer.

I had never given beauty a second thought before reading that book. I could recognize it when I saw it (at least I thought so) but it wasn’t something I ever sought out. Maybe it was his flowery style of writing or just the conviction behind his words, but as I read I felt something awakening inside of me. It was what I felt during my time in Madrid, but hadn’t been able to identify. It was the desire for a life filled with beauty, passion, and adventure. The desire to be utterly seduced by life.

From there, I knew that going the typical job route was no longer an option. I wanted something out of life that a 9-5 could never give me, and I would do whatever it took to find it. Why not find a way to move back to Spain? Yeah, that seemed like a good enough plan.

Three years have passed since that decision, and I’m living in Spain like I wanted to. But I’d be lying if I said the desire for a life filled with beauty and passion was my prime motivator for the past couple of years. Somewhere along the way, that romantic vision got pushed to the back of my mind. I started, once again, to view life as a race to be won instead of a journey to be enjoyed. Achievement and success became my primary focuses. All this time abroad, surrounded by so much beauty, and I’ failed to truly appreciate it.

Adjusting My Sails

I want to reconnect with my desire to be seduced by life and all the beauty it has to offer.

How do I do this? Well, just like I mentioned in my post on true north principles, the most important thing I can do is commit to the vision that drove me abroad in the first place. That means slowing down and looking deep within, not letting my surface level desires for achievement and success distract me from my core desire for a life filled with beauty and passion.

I also want to start using this blog as a place to develop and share my vision. It’s time for “An Appetite for Beauty” to live up to its name.