Day 300 already! Only 65 days left. I must start pulling up my socks and really practicing curiosity. Less thinking and writing about it.
Today I actually did just that. I was browsing through Facebook and saw a post from a friend of mine asking, “Are peanut butter and mayo really as good together as everyone says?” I found myself thinking first “Who on earth says that? I’ve never heard it before” and then “Sounds gross” and then “There’s only one way to find out.”
Immediately following those thoughts came “It is my Year of Living Curiously. Maybe I should just be brave and test it.” I even had mayo in the house, which I usually don’t. (I always have peanut butter.) So in the name of curiosity, I had a piece of toast for lunch with peanut butter and mayo on it.
Was it as good as “everyone says”? I couldn’t say. I don’t know how good it is supposed to be. What I can say is that it is not as gross as it sounds. I found it kind of nondescript, the mayo kind of diluting the distinctive flavor of the peanut butter. One thing, though, the mayo, being slippery, did make the peanut butter stick less to the roof of my mouth. That’s something, I suppose.
Today I tried something I’ve been curious about, but a bit wary of, for a number of years now–I went for a session of Emotional Freedom Techniques (EFT). I don’t know if practicing curiosity for almost ten months helped me overcome the wariness, but overcome it I did.
I’m still making sense of what we worked on and how we worked on it. One thing I would like to say is that I’m very glad I did overcome my wariness and tried it out. It was refreshing and helpful. The other thing is that it has elements of River curiosity–you start out with one topic, but you don’t really know where you will end up. You are carried along by the flow of the session.
This morning on our dogwalk I saw another dog person whom I hadn’t seen in ages. From across the park she started waving her arms at me. I waved back. Then she became more agitated and was clearly trying to communicate something more to me than a simple “Good morning!” I was–with great curiosity ;-)–trying to figure out what she was trying to say and was focused on her to the extent that I did not see the police officer hiding in the bushes, waiting apparently for dog walkers who did not have their dogs on the leash.
Luckily, I did figure out in time that what she was mouthing was “Police!” and I was able to get my dog onto the leash before there was a fine to pay. What I discovered this morning was that when you focus all your curiosity on one point, it is easy to overlook something else.
If I had called this blog “A Year of Living Mindfully” I would have found it a lot easier to describe my progress and successes, but that isn’t the kind of curiosity I wanted to practice especially.
Similarly, my life would be easier if I had undertaken to practice just desire-to-learn curiosity. That one more or less takes care of itself.
But, no. When I think back I realize that what I most wanted to practice in this Year of Living Curiously was interpersonal curiosity and existential curiosity, the two I have the hardest time with.
First of all, interpersonal curiosity. I want to practice interpersonal curiosity, especially in the form of Inquiry–genuinely trying to understand how other people see the world. Partly this has simply become a challenge to me. I have tried so long to achieve this and have made so little progress. It is bringing out my cussedness. I also happen to see this kind of communication and interaction as essential to the future of the planet. The way I see it if we can’t learn to engage with openness and a desire to understand other ways and worldviews we will at some point simply self-destruct (not to put too fine a point on it).
Second of all, River or existential curiosity. This is for my own personal well-being. I’m aware that I create a great deal of stress for myself by trying to control things (like whether I am curious or not ;-)) rather than meeting life with anticipation and an openness to what comes.
At this point, I guess I have to say that thanks to the last 285 days at least I have worked out for myself that I see different kinds of curiosity. Now I can spend the the remaining 79 days concentrating on making at least a bit of progress on the two kinds of curiosity that I feel need work.
Michel de Montaigne said (and this I remember because it was the topic of one of my college application essays) that the journey is more important than the arrival. Luckily, we managed to achieve both yesterday.
I was out walking with a friend and my dog along a trail we had not been on for a number of years and never very often and we simply explored. It was an exquisite day (although it did get a bit hot towards the end) and a beautiful place and so we walked without worrying too much about where we were going and how we were going to get there. It was incredibly relaxing and fun.
That may not have been exactly what Montaigne meant, but it worked for us.
I’m looking forward to the time when I have a bit more time to think and write. Still, I’m not as closed down as I could be, given the pressure at the moment.
Today I did an exercise with a group of students that I’ve done a lot over the last few years. I ask my (mainly) Austrian groups what they know or think they know about U.S American culture. I’ve gotten very used to answers like “friendly but superficial” but today someone mentioned something for the first time. He said, “Ethnocentric.” This is not a word I associate with one culture only. In fact, there is a fair amount of research that shows we all start out ethnocentric. We seem to be hardwired that way.
Anyway, I then asked my standard follow-up question, “What behavior do you see that makes you think ‘ethnocentric’?” and found that I was waiting with completely natural curiosity for his answer. I didn’t have to remind myself to be curious. I simply was.
And here is what he said: They benchmark everything against what is happening in America; they don’t know much about the rest of the world; and they have a “we’re #1” mentality even when they aren’t. The first point even fits the technical definition of “ethnocentric”. My curiosity was satisfied.