By Jacqueline Moore
Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious”. (Letter to Carl Seelig (11 March 1952), Einstein Archives 39-013)
When I read that quote it felt true for me, too, and got me thinking about why that is. (I am such a philosopher at heart.) I went where my musings took me and I offer them in the spirit of inviting a welcoming to the power of curiosity.
I am passionately curious about life in general, people more specifically, and “how things work”, very specifically; that is, the “why” behind what is. As I contemplated this quote, a variety of notions arose and here they are.
Recently I have been on the road delivering sales training to team members in one of the world’s largest and most successful enterprises. At the heart of this training is the concept that the agents be ‘naturally nosy’ when speaking with customers, in order to find out about their businesses and uncover needs for the products and services the agent’s company provides. It has been a common occurrence in most of the sessions that agents are actually afraid of engaging their customers by asking questions, or being ‘naturally nosy.’ At this point, my perception is that some people are not really curious in that way; some people lack conversation skills to engage others; some people are just not really that interested in others (and may be in the wrong job); and / or, people have become so “knowledgeable” that they are no longer open-minded to the world around them. I might go so far as to say that some people are blocked learners and spend a lot of their energy ‘being right’ and resisting ‘new’ information, even when it might help them in some way.
That led me to think about the “I know mind.” This mind is the one that knows everything, has everything figured out, and needs to be right a lot. My perception is that this state of mind is the opposite of being curious. In my experience in noticing my own beliefs and behaviors as well as those of others, when one is in that mind, there is usually some kind of conflict going on. To the degree I or another is able to “not know” or “be right” about the contentious topic at hand, an opening results for what Stephen Covey calls the Third Alternative, a way that is better than either of the original two and that both parties can live with. In a very esoteric way, losing the need to be right (or to win), can actually be a pathway to peace – inside an individual, between and among people, and nations, and the world. You get my drift.
So then my mind went to “but, there are times when there is no conflict”, just a “knowing” that feels peaceful and right. So, what about that? I do believe there are “knowings” and I resist being complacent about them when they arise because it is just as possible that what I “know” is incomplete at best or incorrect at its relative worst. An example of a knowing I trust and that feels good to me is when I do the right thing in a situation when it is hard to do and inconvenient and I’d rather not do it, but I do it anyway. In those cases, I “know” that the action was right because of how I feel. And, it is not uncommon for me to qualify most of what I say “at this point in time” because I believe expanded knowledge and possible ensuing wisdom are always a possibility, especially with my bent to understand the “why” behind things.
As my journey continued, I arrived at the inevitable “why are we here?” and “what is the purpose of life?” questions that I am extraordinarily interested in and curious about. It’s a bit odd, but I do not want to really “know” the answers to those perennial questions as much as I desire to understand at levels I cannot even imagine, which I imagine would mean I am in some kind of communion with the Divine.
This is where major leaps of curiosity occur for me. And, as I close this piece for now, I leave you with the questions I ask to “the Universe” on a regular and consistent basis, and that, for now, seem adequate enough just to ask. I sense that each day brings instances that reveal an iota of the truth and that staying curious is the only way I know of to stay in a condition of the learning I desire in my very soul. My persistent curiosity springs from the inspiration of The Prayer of St. Francis of Assissi:
- How may I be an instrument of peace?
- How may I sow love?
- How may I pardon (forgive perceived injuries)?
- How may I have immutable faith?
- How may I be used for the transformation of despair into hope?
- Of darkness into light?
- Of sadness into joy?
- How may I seek to console rather than be consoled?
- To understand as much or more than to be understood?
- To love as to be loved?
At the end of the day, I hold the belief that the “why” we are here is clear: to love and be loved. It’s the “how” we get there, if we ever do, that I am most curious about. Today. For now. And I am open and willing to learn new, more mature and righteous ways to be curious. Tomorrow, or whenever such “answers” are to be revealed.
You can learn more about Jacqueline Moore and her work at www.thepowerandlight.com