Too curious? or not enough?

February 24, 2022

As for all virtues and all things in life, there is a balance to find between deficiency and excess. Even with the noblest of virtues, there can be too much. Today I want to talk about an important virtue, curiosity. It is beautiful to be curious. I look at my baby son and see a curious little being, wanting to touch everything, press every button, and do all the things he is not allowed to do - to find out what happens if he does. If I ask him not to go in the kitchen next to the stove, he will put a toe forward and look at me intensely to see how I will react. Babies and small children are curious little beings but differently from humans. They are curious about experiences - what will this feel like? What happens if I pour this big bucket of water into a small shampoo cap? Adults tend to be curious more intellectually, asking questions learning with books, courses, and teachers.

There is a Zen proverb that we talked about before in my article where a Millipede explains what Zen is, that goes along those lines:

"Tell a fish that water is part hydrogen, part oxygen, and it will die laughing."

Vice of deficiency:

If you have too little curiosity, you will become (or stay) ignorant. However, ignorant often doesn't mean that you keep opinions to yourself. For example, look at what has been happening in the world in the last few years and how people talk about it on Twitter. One day, everyone is an epidemiologist and asserts facts they do not comprehend. When bitcoin goes up, everyone is a financial expert and adviser the next day. The next day, everyone is an expert on the social-political situation in Eastern Europe.

Deficiency in curiosity is usually associated with a deficiency in humility - if you don't want to learn, you might assume that it is because you already know. However, if there is a lack of humility, you won't find it necessary to open a book and find things out. This can be due to arrogance, and it can be due to laziness. Either way, you see that the vice of deficiency of curiosity blocks you from growing, self-actualizing and flourishing. To learn is to continue to live. When you have nothing left to learn, you stop the motion of your life wagon - you die. Perfection is death - there is nowhere left to go. Stagnation is hopeless - it is better to go the wrong way than not go at all.

Vice of excess:

That's the funny part for our fish. Some people go to the woods to learn about nature. They bring with them books on trees, plants, and birds. They study them. This bird is red and yellow, and that one sings a tune that resembles a tri-toned tremolo. That is great to know. But if you are too eager to learn, you will go into the woods, stay inside with your books, and completely miss the point of being in nature. You learn and analyze instead of getting out there and experiencing life. Instead of reading all day about a particular bird, get out there and hear him sing with your ears, not with your eyes on the paper. Instead of studying a tree, go out, smell it, touch it. Sit under its shade and breathe in the life experience. Take off your shoes walk on the grass.

A fish finds it hilarious that you tell him what water is made out of - he can swim way better than you. He can breathe in the water thrive in the water. We need all sorts of equipment. Do we know the water better than a fish, simply because we have the tools to analyze what it is on a chemical level?

The conclusion is this:

There must be a balance between deficiency and excess of curiosity. Because we live in the age of information, I strongly suggest that we incline ourselves more towards the deficiency, since the excess is being imposed on us most of the day. We receive more data per day than our brains can process in a lifetime. This creates suffering and fatigue. We need to learn to protect ourselves from such excessive inputs and absorb only what is essential for us and the people we serve.

So: Read, learn, stay curious! But at the same time, you have only ONE LIFE - experience it with your senses, not only in your books.

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