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The curiosity soul

Little children make a mess of everything in their quest to touch, feel, smell, and taste…their insatiable curiosity is unfathomable. They will go to greater measures to cry simply to obtain what they desire. They’re curious about the feel. They are fascinated by everything. Children are born with an insatiable need to learn. By nature inquisitive, they cannot be restrained from exploring as they attempt to comprehend their world. Everything is awe-inspiring.

For millennia, philosophers have grappled with the notion of curiosity, and have seen it in three distinct ways. Aristotle and Cicero defined curiosity as an innate yearning for knowledge. St. Augustine and Hume referred to it as a “desire for knowledge”. Bentham and Kant both referred to curiosity as appetitive, which corresponds to Ferubach’s view that curiosity is the outcome of an unfulfilled knowledge drive. Later philosophers arrived at what Loewenstein referred to as the “pre-modern agreement” on the concept of curiosity as “an intense, essentially motivated thirst for information”, which incorporates elements of all three of the earlier philosophical theories” generic definitions of curiosity. Many of these early theories equated curiosity with other urges such as hunger or thirst and did not address the issue of whether curiosity was unidimensional or multidimensional.

Among the first to recognize that curiosity has at least two fundamental dimensions, William James was among the first to see a) common curiosity, including the thrilled or angry sentiments brought on by novelty, and b) scientific curiosity, which is linked to more precise facts. Numerous following theories extended or expanded on this multifaceted picture of curiosity.

‘‘ Curiosity’ … is perhaps a rather poor term by which to designate the impulse toward better cognition in its full extent; but you will readily understand what I mean. … In its higher, more intellectual form, the impulse toward completer knowledge takes the character of scientific or philosophic curiosity. … Young children are possessed by curiosity about every new impression that assails them.’’

’ (James, 1899, pp 45–46)

I adore spending time with children–what transpires in their minds must be quite magical. As many as one hundred “why” questions are asked each day by toddlers. When they awaken, all they want to do is get out of their crib—they don’t care if they stay or not; they just want the fuck out. And then it’s as if their mind has caught fire. It’s as if neither yesterday nor tomorrow exist—as it’s if they only have now. As adults, many of us wake up drained, as if another day has passed us by– I’m exhausted, when does this day end but it’s only the beginning.

The mentality of a child has not been perverted by civilization. They are compelled to be curious. They went from climbing on the table to see if they could fall to climbing it again in the next minute to see if they could avoid falling this time. They’re curious: What will happen if I crawl approach that odd gadget on the wall? What if I climb to the top of that low table? What will happen if I accidentally touch this steaming cup of coffee? Then there’s the fact that they’re like human vacuums, sucking up every little thing that falls to the floor and putting it in their mouth.

‘‘Three-year-olds, on average, ask their parents about 100 questions a day, every day! However, by the time they are ten to 11 years of age they’ve pretty much stopped asking. Of even greater concern is that by the age of 25, only two percent can think outside the box. Curiosity seldom survives childhood. Adult creativity is still powerful, but there is just not enough of it. It can be said that the creative adult is the curious child who survived.’’

Robert Stokoe, director of the Jumeirah English-Speaking Schools in Dubai, United Arab Emirates

Children are predisposed to be scientists. Children utilize the tools of science—enthusiasm, hypotheses, tests, and conclusions—to unravel the world’s mysteries, from the first ball they send flying to the ant they observe carrying a crumb. However, adults appear to have forgotten what came instinctively to them.

We are all born with an innate thirst for curiosity, but society has tamed it over time. As we become older, many of us lose our childlike curiosity. Many people become so preoccupied with their own sufferings that they lose their ability to think, leaving them with no choice but to carry out the bare minimum and perhaps endure what is. Certain social norms—whatever they may be—taint the minds of some people. It requires fortitude to continue asking the 100 questions per day as if you were a child, regardless of whether the other party thinks you are foolish or odd. It requires a courageous individual to never accept what is perhaps asking why things are the way they are.

I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on. Life was meant to be lived. Curiosity must be kept alive. One must never, for whatever reason, turn their back on life. 

Eleanor Roosevelt

The future belongs to the curious, to those who are not afraid to poke, prod, and question it, as well as to those who can flip it inside out. As Albert Einstein stated, the critical point is to never stop questioning. Remember the child within you, reawaken that child, and breathe life into that inner child–the youngster who wondered why a tree is called a tree.

Due to the fact that the mind functions similarly to a muscle that grows stronger with continued exercise, the mental workout induced by curiosity makes your mind grow stronger and stronger. By being inquisitive, you can discover new worlds and opportunities that are generally hidden. They are concealed behind the surface of everyday life, and it takes a curious mind to peer beneath and find these other worlds and possibilities. When you are intrigued by anything, your mind predicts and anticipates more ideas on the issue. You will identify the concepts as they come. Without curiosity, ideas may pass right in front of you and go unnoticed because your mind is unprepared to identify them. Additionally, your life is never monotonous or ordinary — boredom is a hazy concept, while an adventurous existence is certain. Unleash your inner child.

Photo by Michael Morse on Pexels.com

References

James, W. (1899). Talks to teachers on psychol: And to students on some of life’s ideals. New York: Henry Holt & Company

Jirout , Jamie, and David Klahr. “Children’s Scientific Curiosity: In Search of an Operational Definition of an Elusive Concept.” William James, 29 Apr. 2012, https://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/JamesTalksToTeachersFirstEdition.html.

Stokoe R. Curiosity, a Condition for Learning. Questia.com. 2012 [cited 27 August 2020]. Available from: https://www.questia.com/library/journal/1P3-3009007551/curiosity-a-condition-for-learning

 A quote by Eleanor Roosevelt [Internet]. Goodreads.com. [cited 27 August 2020]. Available from: https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/395328-i-could-never-be-content-to-take-my-place-by

Engel, S. (2009, August 01). Is Curiosity Vanishing?. Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry . https://doi.org/10.1097/CHI.0b013e3181aa03b0.

Does Our Curiosity Change As We Age?. (2021, February 25). FutureLearn. https://www.futurelearn.com/info/courses/developing-curiosity/0/steps/154565.

Importance of Being Curious – Home | Anderson University. https://andersonuniversity.edu/sites/default/files/student-success/importance-of-being-curious.pdf.