Respect for Curiosity

I was 27 when I realized I didn’t take my curiosity seriously.

I’d spent hours on a speech for work. I talked to experts, dug through archives, read the headlines and the small print. Then I wrote an informed, if long-winded speech.

When I met my boss to talk through it, there wasn’t a question I couldn’t answer. I’d hounded that issue down and gnawed the marrow out of it.

And it hit me like a bus that I’d never respected my own curiosity enough to do that.

I wrote my curiosity off as unimportant. Or I kicked it down the road. And at the end of a road somewhere, sat a heap of questions about how Monarch butterflies know to fly to Mexico, if lighthouse keepers still exist, where the slinky came from, and why Emma Lazarus got chosen to write the poem on the Statue of Liberty’s pedestal.

If we spend our time as a reflection of our values, I didn’t value my curiosity enough to make time for it. And a doctor couldn’t write a better prescription for stagnation.

Curiosity is a question. And it’s a summons to find out something more about our world and ourselves in it. Maybe it will lead somewhere. And maybe it won’t. But we respected ourselves enough to find out.

Unsurprisingly, Albert Einstein weighed in on this subject. He wrote his friend Otto Juliusberger about it in 1942. On curiosity, Mr. Einstein gets the final word:

“People like you and I, though mortal of course, like everyone else, do not grow old no matter how long we live. What I mean is that we never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we’re born.”

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