If you gave me a few seconds to share what I believed could add the most to a person’s life I’d say – be curious.
Everything and everyone.
When you’re curious, every day is rich.
This doesn’t mean every day is great, that’s impossible and undesirable; but you can be up or down, relaxed, anxious, angry, sad and you’re learning, adding colour and texture, cracking open walls.
But you’ve got to pay attention. You’ve got to be awake so that you take in what you are experiencing and start making it into something, rather than being asleep to it and letting it pass you by.
Curiosity is intrinsic although the instinct can fade if it’s not encouraged or used. But it can be rekindled.
Curiosity leads to unexpected synergies, it reveals new patterns and generates startling serendipity.
I love this.
I see in most in the digital world where algorithms work out who you are faster than you can input your version and then throw people in front of you who share related interests that you’d never have connected with otherwise.
Oh so you’re interested in X, go here, the connection says. Do that.
Before you know it you’re down some or other rabbit hole exploring something you’ve never heard of by someone you’ve never met and the sparks start going off.
Oh, now I see how this leads to that, or I could combine this research here on neurology with these observations by the long dead poet and…
Before you know it you’ve turned that cheap cut of meat into Beef Cheeks Mole Poblano in the ideas sense.
It happens constantly.
And it’s not just you that benefits because things get passed along.
The other day I was watching a video on dysfluency on edge.org, one of my favourite sites (sort of a bootcamp for TEDsters) and I immediately knew it would resonate with a writer I’ve connected with in the US and so I sent it to her.
If you love learning, you’re never bored, or its the kind of ennui that needs to come over you to slow you down; so that the information can break down, gestate, start recombining itself into something else.
(That’s one thing we have to build into our practice in a world in which it’s possible to be constantly distracted and entertained.)
And in the modern world, the only thing you need is an internet connection.
You can head to OpenCulture and study any one of 700 degrees from Ivy League universities around the world, for free.
Learn any language. French. Arabic. No cost but your time.
Watch thousands of movies. Download books. Hear rare recordings of Florence Nightingale or Virginia Woolf, Tennessee Williams reading Hart Crane’s poems.
Or gasp at Neruda’s Me Bird translated into a stunning cut paper animation.
Beckett fan? Here’s a genius production of Come and Go.
Or if you’ve always wanted to learn calculus head to Khan Academy where the way the video lessons are structured means that the program will take you through the basics again and again until you get it, no person gets left behind, not possible in our current education system (no fault of the teachers who have curricula and time constraints) but where fast learners are privileged over those who are by no means less intelligent, but have different or slower learning processes.
Of course that makes access the new gold.
I’m fortunate because I was born with an insatiable curiosity and a love of the arts.
If you have that, you’re very rich. You can spend hours in a gallery or reading a book that cost you $1 or scratching around on a canvas.
Just about anything fascinates me. I could sit down with someone who was passionate about dying wool or building cars and spend hours listening to what they do and why. The exception is using Excel spread sheets (I’ve tried).
There are always multiple stories behind people too, some real, some not. This makes everyone interesting in their own way. If you get underneath and listen then it’s possible to understand why people are as they are or do as they do. Sometimes you want to spend a lot of time with those reasons and sometimes not.
And for me personally, the counterpart to all this curiosity: solitude.
I think we go mad without it.