As newborns, everything, and I mean everything is novel. We’ve never seen a face before, or heard a rattle and we’ve certainly never distinguished between red or blue or yellow. Instinctively, we find sounds as well as facial expressions, to be either pleasant or not. For the first ten to twelve years of our lives, we are, by nature, curious, and it is that curiosity, which in large part, describes childhood. Unfortunately, as innate as curiosity is, during our early childhood, parents also play a significant role in encouraging or discouraging our sense of adventure, our sense of curiosity.
Reasonably, a child can’t be familiar with anything that they aren’t introduced to. If as parents we limit our children’s food choices or allow them to pick and choose, then they will likely become picky eaters. Shun physical activity and complain about the weather, and our children will probably develop negative attitudes in that regard too, based on the only examples they’ve been exposed to.
If on the other hand, we cook from scratch and introduce new ingredients, while involving our children in the process, then they will likely develop a curious and healthy relationship with food. Focus on introducing experiences that don’t involve an Entrance Fee and they will tend toward expanding their own repertoire, and trust me, invite you to participate as well. Expose children to a wide palette of artistic expression and they will value, support and defend the arts.
Not to be confused with naivety, curiosity is what keeps us soulfully young. Most of us who have experienced the struggles and challenges of mere mortals, and spent even a passing moment considering human behaviour, are keenly aware of the fact that chronological age is no guarantor of higher level thinking, much less emotional maturity. Likewise, chronological age does not preclude one from being adventurous and childlike, not to be confused with childish.
Just as the phrase “mature beyond their years” describes one who is unusually wise at a chronologically young age, so does “young at heart” describe one who, despite their grey hair, has retained the curiosity of a spring lamb. Curiosity is the nut, the fruit that brings life to every day events and experiences.
We’ve all met that person that lights up a room as they walk in, despite not knowing anyone. Call it charisma or call it charm, but very close to the surface you will find a sincere curiosity. Sure, be aware of false prophets, but many, if not most of us, recognize sincerity when exposed to it. We can see it in the other’s eyes while they listen, or not. We can hear it in their voice, as they share an embarrassing anecdote, or in how they peel back our guard with their thoughtful questions.
I don’t know who first said it, but “The way you do anything is the way you do everything.” is a phrase that I first read, over twenty years ago, in Steven Covey’s “The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People“, and that I truly believe holds true. Some may argue that it just isn’t so, because one may be messy at home but not at work, to which I would counter, take away all the artificial supports, take responsibility for all aspects of your work environment, and then we’ll talk. If you’re curious, you’re curious, regardless of your sparing partner, regardless of the topic and certainly regardless of any self-serving motivation.
Sincere curiosity can’t be disguised by shallow posturing, anymore than by wrinkles and receding hair-lines. All things being equal, a sharp mind is the product of a curious mind. Refrain from reading, at any age, and remove, perhaps the most important avenue to new ideas. Avoid solving problems, and deny yourself the satisfaction of discovering a hidden talent. Ignore those chronologically younger or older than yourself, and suffer the consequences of ignorance.
It may come more naturally to some, than to others, but there’s no denying that curiosity is critical to remaining physically, intellectually and emotionally active. In the words of Pablo Picasso “Youth has no age.” and since we were all curious once, we can be again. Now, I’m off to walk the streets on this cold January day to poke my camera around another, unfamiliar corner and, who knows, produce some memorable Street Photography.
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