My curiosity is returning. For quite a few months after my accident I was just plodding along, getting by, not thinking very much about anything new or different. But now, as my brain heals itself, I find I am beginning to look around me again, and starting to wonder about things.
It feels great!
When I say curiosity, I mean the eagerness and desire to find out about new things. I mean inquisitiveness, an interest in strange and different experiences, a sense of excitement at finding the unexpected. I mean asking questions that start with “Why…..?”, “What if…..?” or “I wonder whether…..?”
We are all born with a sense of curiosity. Just watch any baby or small child looking around, eager to explore and try something new.
The Greek philosopher Aristotle told us ‘All men by nature desire to know’. Without it we would never learn anything, never develop our potential. Albert Einstein said ‘I have no special talent, I am only passionately curious’.
And it turns out that curiosity is good for our mental health, our wellbeing.
The American psychologist Barbara Fredrickson reminds us how important our positive emotions are, because they increase our range of thoughts and actions. Curiosity sparks the urge to explore. Joy sparks the urge to play. Contentment sparks the urge to savour and integrate. Love sparks a recurring cycle of each of these urges within safe, close relationships.
Broadening our minds in these ways, through exploration, play, savouring or integrating, promotes discovery of new and creative actions, ideas and social networks. These in turn build up our personal resources and provide lasting reserves for us to draw on if life gets difficult again.
Curiosity is effective against fear of the different, the unknown. And it’s a much healthier (though sadly less common) response to the different than prejudice.
Alexander von Humboldt was a brilliant, but very anxious 19th century German explorer. He overcame his fear and worries by unceasing curiosity. He made discoveries in an unparalleled range of sciences from botany to geography. He used his curiosity to break down the barriers of prejudice and increase his enjoyment of life. He was a pioneer of global thinking, whose reward was to feel in touch with the entire earth.
You know the old saying ‘Curiosity killed the cat’? Well, if you look into its origins, it turns out to be just the opposite. The original saying was ‘Care killed the cat’, where the word ‘care’ means worry, sorrow or sadness.So we should turn this upside down, and say ‘Curiosity cured the cat’.
I wonder what you’re wondering about just now.