Fearless Friday: The Importance of Curiosity
Currently, I’m slogging through Douglas Hofstadter’s Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Braid. I say slog because it’s a challenge, heavy on the math and science of formal systems and their connections. This is the kind of reading I regularly do, even if I come away with a muddied sense of things. How is the world connected? What does this or that mean? I feel an odd sense of joy in reaching middle age with more questions than answers.
Curiosity is a skill like any other. It has to be practiced and encouraged. Children are naturally curious, but somewhere along the way, we teach ourselves to be cynical sophisticates who stop asking why? The culture, too, is teaching us the immediate gratification of having information spoon fed to us. Not asking questions or researching for our own answers impacts our brains and it impacts how we understand the world. Many of us are simply wrong, basing our judgment on faulty and/or incomplete information. Curiosity is the basis of critical thinking. And we need it more in the world than ever.
Welcome to Fearless Friday.
Fearless Fridays are about lives lived in spite of our fears, living a life that is about curiosity, compassion, and courage. If you just got published, something wonderful happened to you, you witnessed an act of kindness or bravery, or you have someone in your life who amazes you, drop your story into my contact page or email it to TheGreenStudy (at) comcast (dot) net and I’ll run it on a Fearless Friday. If you’re a blogger, it’s an opportunity to advertise your blog, but this is open to anyone who would like to share. These will be 100-300 word stories, subject to editing for clarity and space.
Teach Our Children Well
Curiosity begins as children, so that’s where I’m going to start. Today is Multicultural Children’s Book Day. One of my writer friends, Carolyn at Wise Owl Factory has written children’s books about multicultural adoption and has a fantastic website of resources for parents and teachers. Literacy and representation matters. Little humans are curious, but like adults, they are most curious about themselves – how do I fit into the world? Who can I identify with? Who do I look to for example?
As a side note: There’s apparently a lot of free goodies if you pay attention to #readyourworld on Twitter. Great opportunity for parents, grandparents, and teachers.
Curiosities for Grownups, Too
If you want to really challenge yourself, read Valerie Tarico’s latest post “The Righteousness and The Woke – Why Evangelicals and Social Justice Warriors Trigger Me in the Same Way“. I forced myself to read it even as I bristled at the title – I find myself extremely sensitive to the fallacy of both sides, as if they are equal and only two. But her post is very thoughtful, boiling down to a lack of critical awareness when you become so dogmatic in your thinking that no light can come in. That is what curiosity does – it lets in the light, airs out the room, allows space for nuance and change. But more importantly it doesn’t make it easy for us to categorize and dismiss other humans.
On a lighter note, I’ve mentioned her blog before, but Ellen Hawley over at Notes from the UK always makes me laugh. She writes of the sometimes very odd stories that emerge from over there. As a writer, I never read one of her posts without coming away with a story idea.
Curiosity from a Writing Perspective
I’ve learned this year that if I ever experienced writer’s block, I no longer can. One of the exercises we do at writing group is a random selection of subjects and a timed writing session writing either an essay or short story around the subject. I wasn’t particularly good in the beginning, feeling the panic that any effort to time or rush me inspires. I used to poo-poo writing prompts as an individual exercise, because I always had something I wanted to write, even if it were laborious. But not when it came to writing fiction.
One of the tools we use is The Storymatic, a collection of cards containing characters, items, odd situations. We draw random cards and there’s our story basis. It’s a muscle you learn to use – making up things on the spot. We’re training ourselves to be pathological liars on paper. The outcome is not only a stronger skill set, but in the aftermath, I end up with vignettes of potential characters to develop, plot lines to follow, and narratives that could be more.
So be curious about what you’re capable of, have patience, and be open to things you’ve made fun of in the past. That’s a lot of work for me. I make fun of everything and then have to shamefacedly turn around and say, oh, that really worked. The lesson is: what you mock today, might be something entirely worthwhile the minute you start being curious.