Have you ever noticed just how curious young children are? All the questions they ask…that dreaded “why” question especially. If you watch them as they play or explore something that is new or different to them, they display an innate curiosity that is quite astonishing even from the youngest of ages. I know I am fascinated watching my niece, who is just now 18 months old, when she gets ahold of something. She doesn’t have the words to talk about it or an understanding of what it is or how it works, but she will spend countless minutes exploring it, trying to open it/take it apart/figure it out…just being curious about what it is she can do with it. And this is not something anyone taught my niece, or any of the other children for that matter. They just seem to know how to be curious, to explore, to examine, to manipulate.
Then I think about myself or any of my friends. We don’t really have that curiosity level any more. To be honest we don’t have time for curiosity. Life has taken over and there’s so many other things to focus on in any given day, that time for reflection, curiosity, and exploration is minimal at best. But why? When did this transition occur? Where did our curiosity go?
Put succinctly and perhaps even bluntly, rules, regulations, and expectations creep in at some point as we get older and take over our world. School, family, friends, church, work, society as a whole, etc. all encourage us, intentionally or not, to leave the curiosity behind and focus on our career and/or the day-to-day tasks that make up life as we know it. We are a very busy society and we have little time or patience for curiosity or exploration of things for the mere sake of being curious. There are more important things to attend to as we get older, or so we are told. Think about the way in which many adults respond to children who are asking all their questions. Can’t you hear the frustration or irritation in their voices? Don’t some adults verbally acknowledge that they want the children to stop asking so many questions? Have we not all heard an adult tell a curious child that the answer to the their “why” question is “because I said so”? As adults we simply lose patience with curiosity as it doesn’t fit nicely into our grown up world.
Thus, somewhere along the line we lose touch with our curiosity. It gets shoved to the back of the closet. And not necessarily because we chose to put it there but because we have been conditioned to put it there. In some cases it gets beaten into that corner, while in others it might be a slower shuffle to the back. But regardless, as we grow up we learn to abandon our curiosity.
What a sad commentary. That same beautiful curiosity my niece displays and we applaud when she is a toddler within a few years is considered inconvenient and thus pushed to the side. What is lost as a result of this mindset? What benefits could we as individuals reap if we kept our curiosity alive and well into adulthood? What benefits could be had in society if we all remained just a little more curious? To me, these are haunting questions.
Walt Disney once said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” To deny or ignore our curiosity limits our ability, both as individuals and as a society, to grow, expand, improve, develop new things, etc. I think one of the reasons so many people experience a “mid-life crisis” is because we force some of the vital components of our happiness, like curiosity, into a near non-existent state.
“Curiosity is one of the great secrets of happiness.” – Bryant H. McGill
We need to stop denying the integral parts of ourselves that help us be who we are meant to be. Curiosity may be inconvenient according to the norms of our modern day, fast paced life, but it is such a valuable part of who we are and allows us to make important contributions to society. So if you have lost your curiosity, misplaced it, or put it in the back seat, it is time to find it and put it to good use. The world needs you and your curiosity!