The Big C

No, I don’t mean cancer, I mean curiosity.

curious: \ˈkyu̇r-ē-əs\. :having a desire to learn, investigate or know more about something or someone; :strange, unusual, or unexpected.

I am insanely curious. My life is lit by a large neon question mark. It’s safe to say I am a lifelong learner, even though I haven’t set foot in a traditional classroom for many years. What’s great is that I don’t have to motivate myself to study whatever interests me. I don’t need that course in Statistics to get my degree any longer, so I get to set my own learning plan. I go where my questions lead me.

There are 2 kinds of learning: intellectual learning and emotional learning, and I have the most difficulty with emotional learning. The psychologist, Eric Erickson, believed humans have 8 life stages, and each stage of life involves learning tasks that help set up readiness for the next life stage. Having failed to learn what I needed to learn, I grew older but was still emotionally stuck in prior life stages.  In this sense, there is a learning plan and emotional lessons for a fulfilling and successful life. It was my curiosity, my questions about why I consistently made poor choices—and my desperation, that led me to therapy’s door. At first I resisted looking at the “Why?” of my behaviors and preferred blaming others for my problems. Following my curiosity to self-awareness was a bumpy ride, and satisfying my curiosity was often painful. I was the ostrich with my head in the sand and not the least bit curious, because my fear was paralyzing. I am so grateful to those who gently helped me explore how I got stuck and helped me learn new behaviors. 

We all know that “Curiosity killed the cat.” Most often we take this to mean that curiosity is prying and intrusive and leads to bad outcomes. BUT did you know the complete saying is “Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought him back.”? The edit cutting the second half of this quote changes it’s true meaning.  The real meaning actually encourages people to be  curious instead of killing their curiosity, and especially when they can learn about something  new which is “satisfying”. Consider these quotes: “Curiosity killed the cat, but when humans are concerned, the only thing a healthy curiosity can kill is ignorance.” by Harry Lorayne; or “Curiosity may have killed the cat, but it sure saved my ass.” by Michael J. Fox. Can we be “too” curious when our intention is to use the information for gossip or to harm someone? Certainly people have a right to privacy and we all know how devastating damaged reputations can be. I want my private life to remain private. Does privacy trump, pun intended, incriminating and dangerous information risking the public good and safety? What  do we have a right to know? The Freedom of Information Act includes what information?

All world and life changing discoveries began with a question, a curiosity about what we didn’t know. The polio vaccine and penicillin were created by curious scientists asking questions and testing and more testing. What if they had said we don’t know and there is no way to know? When there is a cure for Cancer and Alzheimer’s no one will say “I wish we had stopped looking for a cure, we shouldn’t have been so curious.” The little boy and girl staring up at the night sky and wondering about the moon grew up and helped put a man on the moon. Justice depends on investigation and needing to know who is guilty. Justice is blind but forensics can not afford to limit investigation when there are still questions. Just think about how many people have been exonerated by DNA testing which was not available when they were convicted.

I live and learn, and my life is enriched by what I have and will learn. Of course, I accept that what I know is  infinitesimal to what is knowable, but I won’t stop learning.  I’ve learned things by reading, doing, and feeling and using all my senses. I don’t want to stop being curious even when what I am most curious about is “What happens when I die?” Now I have to go look up the Freedom of Information Act because I’m curious about it.

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