Thursday, May 14, 2009

"Curiosity killed the cat"

While driving home last night I began to think about all the silly things I have heard throughout my life but never thought much about. Like most people, being busy has often been an excuse for not really thinking deeply about things. Now, with lots of driving time as a result of a very long commute to work, friends, and family and few radio stations that come in clearly when you live in the mountains, I find myself thinking about everything and anything that pops into my head. I am truly amazed at the diversity of topics that fill my mind during this quiet time in the car.

I spent a lot of time last night wondering how in the world a proverb would emerge that would scare people into limiting their curiosity. I spent even more time thinking about how successful it has been together with so many others that seem equally silly to me:

You can't have your cake and eat it too
Mysery loves company
No pain, no gain
The apple doesn't fall far from the tree
Do as I say, not as I do
Don't bite off more than you can chew
If you can't stand the heat, get out of the kitchen
When in Rome, do as the Roman's do
Two's company but three's a crowd

I can remember hearing every one of these proverbs from the time I was a child but never really thought much about the messages they were sending and how they were shaping my beliefs. As I look at these proverbs with a new lens, I am quite fascinated with how limiting they really are. Take "curiosity killed the cat" for example. This one is really exciting for me to explore as I am inspired by my two beautiful children who experience the world so differently. Aly demonstrates her curiosity like most "neurotypical" children through the endless streams of questions she asks about everything. It is amazing how many questions from a first grader I can not answer. I find myself wondering if it is because I was never that curious as a child or if my curiosity ended when I was satisfied with the answer "I don't know" an answer I just realized I give a lot. Then there is David. He demonstrates his curiosity in a completely different way. Instead of asking questions, he tries things out. Like now for example as he is flying two deflated ballons held between a pair of sunglasses all around the house making sure to stop at the computer to see how his newly created "flying thing" looks as it whizzes by the words of my blog. Even though he is not asking questions, I am often answering him with "I don't know" simply by not experimenting with him. This simple reflection about a silly proverb has proven to be incredibly important to me. My "I don't knows" are reinforcing the silly proverb of "curiosity killed the cat". My new proverb is "curiosity found the cat" because I believe if the cat was not curious, it would still be hiding under the bed.

Experiment with me for a week. Every time someone asks you a question and you don't know the answer, take a guess, look things up, experiment, etc. Take the words "I don't know" out of you vocabulary and see how much fun you can have!

Love to you all,


  1. Sweet. I will join your experiment!

    In the Netherlands we seem to use ten times as many proverbs compared to English. And yes, lots of them are limiting our beliefs. But there are also proverbs that I like. Let me translate: "verandering van spijs doet eten". Literally translated it says: "diversion in food makes you eat." We use it to give the message: "change is important" and we use it in all kinds of situations. The underlying belief is for me: change helps to give a new perspective to a certain situation.

    Thanks for this article Kathy. I have a lot of things to think about!

  2. I love it too Kathy, indeed, if the cat believed that silly-suggestion, he would indeed never venture out, find, and create a life.

    Iris? "diversion in food makes you eat." We use it to give the message: "change is important"?? This i can't put together at all. Perhaps a person who tends to choose to overeat, because of a variety being available, might be encouraged to limit their choices. Overweightness, due to overeating seems to me to be a notorious, less than conscious attempt to feel less empty, more full-filled.

  3. You can't have your cake and eat it to... but how ofte do you have a cup of tea without drinking it?

    I once thought a person about the Option Process - and about two ideas:

    I don't know - meaning I don't want to know
    Maybe - meaning I don't say yes right now

    He actually changed his way of being a manager: as of that day 50% of the times he used to say maybe he took a yes or a no stand. - do I need to say that he became more empowered and more effective?

    Love Joy

  4. Hi BW:

    After reading your comment I was thinking, we might have some misunderstanding here and so I looked up the words Idiom and Proverb (thanks Kathy for stimulating me to find answers!)

    An idiom is a group of words which, when used together, have a different meaning from the one than that the individual words have.

    A proverb is a short saying or sentence that is generally known by many people. The saying usually contains words of wisdom, truth or morals that are based on common sense or practical experience. It is often a description of a basic rule of conduct that all people generally follow or should follow. Proverbs can be found in all languages.

    The example I used in my earlier comment is not meant to be taken literal; it is an idiom. So, even though the Idiom talks about eating we never use it that way! I also realize that I believe that the Dutch use way more Idioms than Americans. I don’t believe is true for proverbs!

    Joy: the very first thing I learned when I went to the Option Institute in 2003, and what totally changed my life forever, is exactly what you described above. I realized that I never took a stand for anything and ALWAYS waited for others to make decisions. The "I don't know until I talk with XXX" and "Maybe, Let me think about it" were standards in my life. When I decided not to do that anymore, I was so empowered. So people, if you have not tried this before: throw out your "maybe" and "I don't know" and take a stand. It will change your life.

  5. Me thinks what aids in all that is when one comes to define in some conscious way, what or how they want to experience their moments......then begin the exploration, discovering all the options one has to draw that to oneself.

  6. Fascinating, thought-provoking writing, Kathy! Thank you so much! I started to think about 2 I heard time and time again in childhood and used to say a lot pre-Option days.
    "Patience is a golden virtue" and "All good things come to those who wait".....I don't believe in those sayings anymore. I choose now to not wait for "good things"; I go after what I want now! And I can choose to see all "things" as neither good nor bad. They just are.
    Patience has never worked for me and now I accept that about myself. Impatience and going after what I want now is golden to me.

  7. Very thought-provoking post indeed, Kathy. I remember getting a forwarded email a long time back, where somebody had actually listed lots of common sayings in pairs that had totally opposite meanings. That to me was the final word - that these common sayings carry only as much weight as we choose to give them.

    In fact, I'm beginning to see that any attempt to detect a pattern 'out there' is a projection of our mind, in other words, a belief.


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