Today marks one month in on this project and I would like to take a step back and consider what has come out of thinking and writing about–and trying to practice–curiosity for 30 days. In fact, a friend of mine recently asked if this blog was helping me be more curious. A useful question. What it clearly is doing is focusing my attention on my curiosity practice, and this does have some positive effects:
- It makes curiosity something of a real priority (as opposed to an on-paper priority).
- It starts conversations about curiosity with other people and has given me access to ideas and exercises I otherwise wouldn’t have had.
- It has already provided some clarity about what curiosity is for me, what it isn’t, what its benefits can be.
- I haven’t experienced anything yet that contradicts my hypothesis. I believe that if I were to practice curiosity consistently it would provide me with the benefits I expect. And there we have what my blog has not yet really done for me. With a few exceptions, it has not really helped me practice curiosity consistently.
One thing to come out of it so far is a growing sense of different kinds of curiosity. My working definition is pretty vague, and I see at least the following four kinds of curiosity that fulfill my definition.
(1) Existential curiosity. We could almost call this one “river curiosity” after the quotation that was part of the inspiration for this blog. It is the one where we let go of our need to direct our lives and await with curiosity what wonderful things life offers us. A very difficult kind of curiosity to practice with a distinct potential for disadvantages in a world that expects us to be proactive and show initiative (“God helps those who help themselves”).
(2) Mindful curiosity. It involves paying attention without judgment, simply experiencing openly without any planned outcome, as shown in the Five Senses and Madame Karitska exercises. This one is perhaps the easiest to learn and practice consciously.
(3) Desire-to-learn curiosity. This is about getting to know something better. I suspect all of us have experienced this whether we were interested in horses, snakes, Nietzsche, stamps or comic books. It didn’t always help us in school, but it enriches our lives.
(4) Interpersonal curiosity. This is fundamental to the Ladder of Inference, Inquiry, and any efforts to understand ourselves and other people more deeply. In a world where polarization is an ever greater threat, this is possibly the most important kind.
I don’t know yet what I’m going to do with this. Structuring my thinking this way does help me choose more intentionally what I work on. I may never achieve a consistent practice of existential curiosity. Maybe that is only for people with a really strong faith. I may actually need to reign in my desire-to-learn curiosity, as it can sidetrack me in a big way. Perhaps I’ll spend most of my time on mindful curiosity and interpersonal curiosity.
Eleven months still to figure it out. 🙂