Nourishing the Soul: Curiosity in Life
We are born curious. With this insatiable drive to learn, create, and explore.
Remember when you were little, was there something that caught your attention? Something that made you wonder? Something that made you laugh, frown, and ask questions.
Why is the sky blue?
As we grow up and build routines, life becomes a chore. We assume responsibilities - there are bills to pay, mouths to feed, expectations to meet, and problems to solve. The sense of wonder tends to escape us.
I remember a boy whom I tutored years before. He had a deep love for buses, collecting many pictures of the different bus models, reading books that showed the routes of all the buses in Singapore, he could even tell me what was the specific bus model being deployed for a specific bus number.
You might ask,
what was the point of all this? Was there an examination on buses? Was he somehow being tested?
No. Yet, he was fully absorbed into the study of buses without anyone asking him to do so. We have all heard of a story about how a young would-be inventor would take a broken radio and tear it apart just to see where the sound had come from. When a child is curious, he will have a strong desire to know how things work. He will start to ask many questions. If he is old enough, he will look for the answers himself through books, the internet, and even personally experience itself (through experimentation).
The child's focus is purely on satisfying his curiosity, and with that, the child becomes an independent thinker. Learning becomes fun and natural. The satisfaction comes from discovering and learning about the topic under scrutiny, and not the stars or marks given by teachers. When a curious child is properly guided, he is a genius in his field of interest.
Yet, as a child grows up, he is being asked to be practical, to learn stuff that would give him a livelihood, and to give up his curiosity. Learning now becomes a pursuit of the end results, to get that esteemed job in an established organization. Stress sets in. Life becomes a chore or burden.
Have you stopped asking questions?
The rover on Mars is named Curiosity by a 12 year old girl named Clara Ma. Back then, President George W. Bush had came up with the idea for a national essay competition to name the Mars rover.
"Curiosity is an everlasting flame that burns in everyone's mind," she wrote. "It makes me get out of bed in the morning and wonder what surprises life will throw at me that day. Curiosity is such a powerful force. Without it, we wouldn't be who we are today."
It was curiosity that landed the first person on the moon in 1969. And it was curiosity that we now know so much about the world we live in - it's animals, plants, about the tallest of mountains, and the deepest of seas.
Tune in to your curiosity!
One of the best ways to better appreciate the power of curiosity is to start exercising it more consciously in your daily experiences. By doing so, you can transform routine tasks, enlivening them with new energy.
1. Be fluid
Who knows what’s around the corner? Who would be able to anticipate an economic disaster or a world event that forces us to rip up a five year plan? We rarely look forward to anxiety and tension, but research shows that these mixed emotions are often what lead to the most intense and longest-lasting positive experiences.
Imagine that you go to a football game knowing that your team will win. Most people would say that, yes, that would make them happy. Yet knowing the outcome in advance takes away the thrill of watching each play and the good tension that comes with not knowing what will happen next. We forget about the pleasures of surprise and uncertainty.
Instead of having a fixed linear path for how to get there, try going with the flow.
2. Reconnect with your Inner Child
We can add play and playfulness to almost any task, and the attitude of play naturally builds interest and creativity. Live experimentally, openly, with fascination, through imagination, with enthusiasm and wonder. Make work fun again, and go into it with the intent not of solely completing the task, but of perhaps learning and experiencing new things along the way.
3. Be an Idea Collector
A classic example is Steve Job's curiosity with typefaces, which led him to attend a seemingly useless course on typography. But through that, with newfound sensibility in certain design aspects, he applied it in his work with Apple, and it became Apple's core differentiator in the marketplace.
Like most things in life, you get out what you put in. So you need to invest time in exploring ideas. Write them down in your phone or notebook, on your morning commute, during lunch breaks, or even when talking to people. Note down their ideas and stories, of quotes that inspire you. Take pictures, be it on a camera or in your mind.
Life was never meant to be a chore nor a burden. Life is meant to be lived.
Asking questions and seeking answers,
that's science. And that's life, too.