In passing, when talking about a TV show (of which I can remember nothing) my brother-in-law said “This character started pursuing this interest. It was like he found something he was curious about. And that’s what keeps life interesting, isn’t it… curiosity?”
In a panic, I reviewed my own life and wondered what it was that kept me curious. I think the most obvious answer is that I’m curious to see how our kids will develop, what life choices they will make, what kind of people they will become. Does that count? Perhaps that’s one of the reasons for having kids… to provide that genuine padlock of interest/curiosity/love that attaches us to this life.
A number of people have said to me in the last few months that every generation suffers some kind of crisis that makes the world feel unstable or unsafe or bizarre. I’ve no doubt they’re right. Sadly though, I don’t share in that collective memory and so this crisis (whether you count the crisis to be COVID19 or poverty or inequity or Climate Change or BREXIT or Trump continuing to be president or the way technology is usurping jobs or the coalescing of all or several of the above) is as terrifying as if nothing terrifying had ever happened before in the history of humankind. And if every generation has felt as terrified as I feel (when I allow myself to stop and think much) then what on earth has kept humans going all these years? I don’t enjoy being terrified. Surely I’m not unique in that.
Of course there are those that shut themselves away and ignore the crisis. And I guess, in a sense, I’m one of them because there is a point where I just refuse to read any more articles or pay any closer attention to the awfulness. But that doesn’t answer the question of what keeps us going, what keeps us getting out of bed, what keeps us looking forwards.
- Intellectual/Spiritual Some people have an all consuming passion – whether it’s science or music or God or the next great novel … they wake each day with a drive to pursue some goal or to satisfy that curiosity of which my brother-in-law spoke.
- Material/Financial Some people (it seems) are driven by aspirations for money or fame or fabulous careers. Of course I am only looking in from the outside but … please indulge me. It seems that some people have very material reasons for doing what they do.
- Human Connection And some people have love. Well, hopefully everybody has at least a little love. But some people are driven by love. And that’s where kids and family and community come in. Surely, that’s the glue, the key, the nutritious essence of what drives us on through tragedy and disaster.
I know I’m not saying anything new. I guess it’s just interesting to me to think about all these reasons for living and ponder the curiosity factor. I think curiosity is important. And I would love to think that I’m a curious and engaged person. But, to some degree, I think I perceive the freedom to pursue curiosity as largely the luxury of the unattached. I don’t perceive my life (at this point in time) as being about curiosity. I am just one cog in a larger machine and that machine is made up of the people I care about. A cog can’t run off and pursue it’s own wishes. It helps to keep the machine going. It has a role.
But I enjoy our children’s curiosity. This morning P reported to me that, on the way to school, he and our son were listening to Holst’s “The Planets”. Our son has been playing with a music program where he makes rhythms and tunes and mixes instruments and he has learned a little about timing and the way you write it out so that the different instruments know when to play what they have to. He has created interesting syncopated rhythms which he has adjusted carefully by moving shapes on a screen. This morning he asked his Dad: “Daddy, how many columns did they need to write this music?” How fabulous! What an amazing piecing together of knowledge! What great listening! And guess what it lead to … another question.
Oh yes, curiosity is a wonderful thing. I just don’t know if it’s my thing right now. And maybe that’s okay.