Author Archives: ecbinvienna

About ecbinvienna

E.C. Brown grew up in New England and has lived in Vienna, Austria, for over 25 years.

Day 356 – A natural phenomenon

There’s nothing like a natural phenomenon to stir up the old curiosity. Yesterday, New England experienced a more complete solar eclipse than, I believe, the year that I turned 12 (which was a long time ago!). This offered lots of opportunities to practice curiosity.

First, there was the search for details, mainly when. Then came the search for instructions on how to make a pinhole camera. Then there were the camera assembly and testing phases. Then there was the waiting. I had made a mental note that the start, at least in New York City–was at 1:23 p.m. and the peak at 2:44. Imagining that I would be able to see the moment the moon entered the sun’s light I was outside with my pinhole camera at about 1:20.

First hurdle: I couldn’t see any difference to the sun the first ten minutes or so and got impatient. Mainly, I thought my camera wasn’t working or my eyes weren’t sensitive enough and I was going to miss the whole thing. Finally, I thought I saw a difference. Then I knew I saw a difference. From then on, I was hooked. I didn’t watch without a break, but I did keep coming back to see the progress.

Some things I noticed:

  • It got noticeably cooler as the eclipse progressed to its peak.
  • The blue of the sky seemed less intense.
  • The shadows seemed less distinct.
  • The clouds, which had been moving at quite a pace, seemed to slow down.
  • It got very quiet. The wind died. The birds and the insects stopped chirping.

Somehow I had expected the moon to go across the face of the sun horizontally and was surprised that it started at the top righthand corner and moved diagonally down. (That was one reason it took me a while to recognize that something was changing. I was looking in the wrong place.)

I had also thought that the moment the peak had been reached I would go for a walk with my dog. Instead I found the second half of the eclipse just as enthralling as the first half, and my poor dog had to wait.

All in all, it took two and half hours from start to finish (you cannot rush a celestial event). I consider that an afternoon very well spent.

Day 354 – Numerous opportunities today to be curious

The weekend. I could have been curious as I went shopping and had to figure out where to find certain things on my list. I could have been curious as I tried to replace the washer in my bathroom faucet. I could have been curious as I prepared a new recipe with an ingredient, quinoa, I have only used once before. I could have been, and I might have enjoyed the day more. Sadly, I wasn’t and didn’t. I was too intent in each case on achieving a certain goal in as short a time as  possible. Ah, well.

Day 353 – What was I curious about today?

I’m a bit stuck today. It’s a rainy day and I’ve been doing the usual end-of-week pulling together of and following up on the different projects I’ve been working on. Being stuck, I asked my mother what I should write about, what she would like to know about curiosity. She proposed the subject: What was I curious about today?

That’s a good question. Here goes:

  • The fragments of what I was dreaming when I woke up and what message that might have for me
  • What was causing the drawer on my mother’s desk to stick and how to open it
  • How my warmed up coffee from yesterday would taste (not too bad, amazingly)
  • How to create a thread running through the course outline someone else designed and I have to deliver even though I am plagued by questions such as “Why did they put that subject in there?” or rejections such as “Do we really have to cover the topic of giving feedback again???”

It seems a small list for the better part of a day, but at least I was able to identify some moments when I felt the prick or pull that lets me know I’m being tempted into curiosity.

Day 351 – A new hindrance

As we approach the wire I am, to my surprise, still discovering new aspects of practicing curiosity. Today it was the realization that social norms can act as a powerful hindrance. I was walking past a house this afternoon and could hear the family talking and laughing in the garden behind the trees that protected their privacy. It sounded lively and like a great deal of fun. I would have loved to observe for a bit–my natural curiosity was piqued–but I realized that would make me something of a Peeping Tom and moved on with a bit of regret.

Day 350 – A quick revisit of my hypothesis

Today (rather belatedly) it occurred to me that my hypothesis is phrased almost as if I see curiosity as the only path to the outcomes I list (see below for list). This afternoon on our dogwalk I noticed that I was charging down the path through the woods simply enjoying the somewhat more strenuous movement. There was no curiosity involved. I was not paying any special attention. I was not particularly open. Nonetheless, it was reducing my stress. That is in any case one example of how there are other ways to achieve at least some of the outcomes I want.

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  • Reduce the stress in my life
  • Set me up to be more responsive and therefore more effective
  • Help me build better connections to other people
  • Be the path to growth AND the way to enjoy the journey
  • Be an antidote to self-righteousness and knowing it all
  • Help me know more and understand more (added 31 October 2016)
  • Contribute to my enjoyment of life (added 31 October 2016)
  • Generally enrich my life (added 13 February 2017)