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.
I don’t know what happened when I went out this afternoon with my dog–partly, I think, there just wasn’t that much going on in the park and on the street–but I relaxed and walked along with open eyes and an open mind. And, lo and behold, that state of mind (close to what I am calling curiosity):
- Reduced my stress
- Set me up to be more responsive and therefore more effective
- Helped me build better connections to the people I passed
- Contributed to my enjoyment of life
Just as I hypothesized so long ago. Hallelujah! 🙂
A new form of interpersonal curiosity–easy to recognize, harder to practice.
I taught a group yesterday, in English but made up 100% of non-native English speakers. Some were really easy to understand. Others were harder. As I asked myself “What shall I write about today?” it occurred to me that I had actively and in the face of some difficulty practiced a good deal of interpersonal curiosity. I consistently tried to get beyond the accent and, in some cases, broken grammar in an effort to understand what the person meant.
This is not to be underestimated, I think, as a form of interpersonal curiosity.
I may have underestimated the opportunities to practice curiosity at the wine-tasting last night. Of course, one can–and should–practice mindful curiosity in the tasting process, but I also had the opportunity to practice desire-to-learn curiosity very actively.
I and two colleagues were at a table for four and were joined by a someone we didn’t know. She turned out to be fascinating–a graphic designer who tries to work according to the 26 principles of biomimicry, in which people designing solutions turn to nature to be inspired. (She gave me an amazing example of a German company that has created glass that birds do not fly into and therefore do not break their necks on. It emulates spider webs which, it turns out, have an ultraviolet color that humans cannot see but birds can. After all, birds don’t fly through spider webs.) From there we got into a discussion of how cultural groups relate to nature (by dominating, living in harmony, or giving in to) and learned a lot from each other.
The wine was good, too. 😉
It wasn’t an evening full of formal Inquiry based on the Ladder of Inference, but it was a lovely dinner with two friends. We didn’t always agree on topics we discussed, but we always created space for the other person to explain–a significant part of Inquiry.
Today I had a chat with a friend. She was talking about a new client and I misunderstood what she said. From what I understood at first it didn’t sound like a very good deal for her so I asked with genuine curiosity about her motivation for taking them on. As she was explaining why the work was worth it to her, it became clear to me that I had misunderstood the terms of her contract. It turned out to be a situation where Inquiry was not needed, but the curiosity I felt was just right. That is the mindset that David Bohm and Peter Senge & Co. prescribe when using Inquiry. Yay! 😉
I may be experiencing a plateau, but it seems that I can almost always at least call on desire-to-learn curiosity. I was at a presentation yesterday evening with an opinionated, sometimes crude speaker who was talking about something I already know a fair amount about. And I was able to focus on the one model he presented I wasn’t familiar with. In fact, I think I’ll go Google that right now. Down the rabbit hole!