Thursday, April 22, 2010

Did curiosity really kill the cat?

Several times today, I found myself liberally advising people to be curious.  I must admit that I am very generous with any advice that is resonating deeply with me in the moment.  I hope my conversation partners found it useful, but first and foremost, it's a reminder to me about how I want to position myself when facing things I don't yet understand.

One of our new volunteers shared with me her initial discomfort playing with Jay because she didn't know what to expect.  As she shared, I reflected that the more I know, the more I know I don't know.  Since I know I don't know, then I should expect to encounter situations in which I ... don't know.  In those situations, there are 3 options:

    1. I will know what's going on at some point
    2. I will never know what's going on
    3. I will find out immediately what's going on.  

Now, if I don't want to know what's going on, we don't need to explore this any further. If I want to understand what's happening, my doing discomfort is really unhelpful.  Doing discomfort blocks all my creativity, my free thinking.  If I could even figure out what's going on by assessing the various factors, discomfort acts like a cataract, clouding my vision so I don't even see all I could see.

I've been thinking about the past 15 years married to my honey.  The first many years were spent with If you loved me you would work harder to do this or that that I want.  I faced the unfamiliar with judgements about its unfamiliarness.  Fear (is this thing going to last forever? How will I cope?) contributed to being really unclear about all the other facets to the situation, that would have helped my understanding tremendously.  Frankly, it took a few years to even admit that understanding wasn't my primary objective.  Getting my way was more my thing.  The difference between a few years ago and now is that individual events don't have the cataclysmic repercussions they once did.  I am better able to look at the event as it is, not projecting (too much) into the future, not making it mean something about me...  Just looking at it, curiously.

It's amazing what you will see if you look curiously at the things around you.  Actually, stop for a second, and look around your space right now.  I bet  you see something you hadn't noticed before, or perhaps hear something, or smell something.  Curiosity opens up a whole world!

I saw several meanings for curious when I looked it up in the dictionary.  I'm holding on to an active desire to learn or know.  I've done a fair amount of structured study, then much more self directed study on several topics.  One thing I know for sure is that I don't know for sure!  An active desire to learn means being open, being willing to look at things that don't make sense.  Active curiosity is comfortable with the presence of questions and the absence of answers, with the knowledge that any second now, some new awareness can suddenly appear (it was there all along, but that's another story).

So why do so many of us seem afraid of curiosity?  What is this constant message: Don't look, people will think blah blah blah.  Don't ask questions, mind your business. Is that part of the inner programming that has our eyes shuttered,  our ears muffled?  Did we buy the belief that curiosity killed the cat? Well, I'm not a cat, so...

I googled the phrase and found out that the original comment was 'care will kill a cat' referring to worry or sorrow.  Well that makes more sense.  Everyone knows worry will kill you!  No debate there!

So I'm learning to be curious about all kinds of things.  I'm even curious about myself, and my reactions to things like spit and a messy house. Next time you are in a situation that has some puzzling factors, try being curious about the factors in the situation.  Ask some 'how come?' and 'I wonder why..?' in that relaxed child looking under a stone kind of way.  Better yet, next time you feel yourself getting uncomfortable about the puzzle, get curious about your discomfort!

1 comment:

  1. oh yes, Curiosity is huge. It springs from interest, in the desire to know more, to understand more. Equally important in relationships me thinks is the aspect of acceptance, of one another, as in its their business...and we don't have to understand, or to have matters explained for us because of this chosen acceptance. In otherwords, to give and to share the gift of our curiosity. Not needing to know, but simply being curious, and wondering if the other is as well....imho bw


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