“Curiosity is the one thing invincible in Nature.”
– Freya Stark
January 26, 2017
“The first and simplest emotion which we discover in the human mind, is curiosity.”
– Edmund Burke
” People function better when they’re engaged and curious.”
– Tom Dotz & Tom Hoobyar, NLP – The Essential Guide
“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existing.”
– Albert Einstein
For the individual, curiosity is indispensable. Without curiosity, the individual finds itself without the compass through which they would plot their journey in life.
In life, curiosity serves multiple purposes. Curiosity is the path through which we achieve truth, but also the path where we unleash imagination. Ultimately, one cannot strive for truth, if one cannot search for it. And one cannot search for truth, if one is not inherently curious. Conversely, imagination, on the other hand, cannot be employed if one’s intrinsic curiosity is dull at bay. How can one imagine, if one cannot wonder? How can one wonder, if one is not curious?
This is why it’s imperative to foster curiosity at every turn, for it will yield amazing results.
Who better to learn about being curious, then children?
Children are amazing beings; they always wonder what’s possible.
If you spend enough time around them you will notice children will do the most random, unexpected, delightful, or at times downright bewildering things.
However, it’s reasonable to argue that most persistent thing a child will do when they reach that age is to ask why. This is because questions, to children, are natural. They cannot know the world without inquiring; they inherently realize this. How else can one attain knowledge, but by figuring things out? How else can one attain knowledge, but by employing curiosity?
Curiosity is to questioning, as clues are to solving crimes.
Every person that has interacted at length with a child will eventually run into questions of all types.
[Sidebar]In fact, not long ago, got into a very mindful and lengthy conversation with my friend’s daughter who was 11 or so. This young kid had more curiosity than any other adult that has interacted with me for a long time. It was rapid fire consistent questioning that you never get in adult life, and not aimless either. There was purpose. Every question built on the previous one; everything was as precise as it could be. It was quite refreshing. It’s a pity most people seem to merely have the facsimile of curiosity, rather than the actual trait.[End Sidebar]
But overtime, this type of passion for questioning changes and nigh doesn’t exist in adulthood.
As adults, many tend to live life within the lines, never seeking life, or answers beyond societal-imposed boundaries. Adults, or even adolescents for that manner, tend to have a different type of curiosity – a downgraded type of curiosity. Adults tend to settle for the superficial answer. And what’s worse, superficial answers barely even scratch the surface, and by their very nature are unable to get to the heart of issues.
Children, on the other hand, employ curiosity like precisely aimed arrows, which is their attempt to ascertain the world around them. Moreover, just because they hit bullseyes doesn’t mean they will quit either. If anything, they get more courageous, as if someone just told them there’s no limit to the amount of sugar they can have.
Children’s relentlessness for knowledge coupled with focused inquisitiveness helps hone the type of curiosity that gets to the heart of the matter.
Why is this?
In How To Read A Book [Review Here], Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren speak about very issue:
“The child is a natural questioner. It is not the number of questions he asks but their character that distinguishes him from the adult. Adults do not lose the curiosity that seems to be a native trait, but their curiosity deteriorates in quality. They want to know whether something is so, not why. But children’s questions are not limited to the sort that can be answered by an encyclopedia.”[Bold Emphasis Added]
Children, like detectives, will not be stopped until they achieve the answers they seek.
However, although children are inherently curious, by adulthood, that curiosity has morphed into something else, something more static and less malleable. Why such a change?
Part of this is the stamping out of imagination from public schooling, and part of it is propaganda. How can propaganda play a part? Ponder, haven’t we all heard, “Curiosity killed the cat”? If that’s not propaganda, nothing is. It’s a statement made to slam down curiosity, as if it’s a gnat to get rid of in one swift blow. Translation: don’t ask that, don’t’ do that, don’t’ go there. One might as well say, “Live within that box, and don’t dare move beyond it.” It’s emblematic of living in fear, except it chains curiosity to the box.
Unfortunately, corralling curiosity can have detrimental side effects. Without curiosity, individual learning within the boundaries of the world gets stultified, and we settle for ready-made answers [provided by others, rather than arrived through by personal insight] rather than journeying through the mysterious, and adventuring through life in search of the unknown.
And it is within the unknown that the lessons of life reside.
Philosopher Peter Kreeft, in his introduction to Philosophy via Plato’s Apology, writes in his Philosophy 101 by Socrates, and encapsulates the above issue best:
“…Socrates loves the unknown rather than fearing it. That is almost the definition, the essence of a good learner. Children who at an early age are punished for exploring the unknown will find it hard later to trust their own curiosity and will prefer the safety of the known, like scared rabbits afraid to come out of their comfortable holes. Children who have been encouraged to question and explore the unknown are reward for doing so, will make good students, make many discoveries, and be happy doing so. The unknown is to them not like poison but like food.”[Bold Emphasis Added]
The unknown shouldn’t be feared. In fact, it should be welcomed. It’s an opportunity for growth; an opportunity to test knowledge, character, insight.
Moreover, a child’s inherent curiosity – or for that matter, everyone’s curiosity – should be encouraged constantly. How else is an individual to foster creativity, and help imagination bloom if without not curiosity?
And even though children can at times go a little overboard with questions, questions still remains the best avenue for curiosity to be employed, which undoubtedly leads to finding the truth, which is what questions are about.
Regarding this, in The Imaginative Argument [review here], Frank L. Cioffi states the following:
“A very fundamental human act undergirds and empowers this activity of arguing for truth. It’s one that you see in children all the time, one that might even be annoying: the relentless asking of questions. Just as a child might ask again and again, “why?” until the parent finally shushes him or her with a “Because that’s the way it works,” or “Just because. Now leave me alone!” so you as thinkers and writers should be asking question upon question…You should ask questions that will help you understand, assess, contextualize, make sense of a given situation, a given idea, text, or topic. And these questions should reach outward – “What do others say?” – at the same time that they should delve within: “How do I feel about this?” Questioning allows you to open yourself to possibilities – an action that characterizes genuinely creative thought.”[Bold & Underline Emphasis Added]
When one ruminates about it, when children question, they are little philosophers, for they seek the truth.
Perhaps, just perhaps, the questions children ask, are vitally more important than what most realize.
In fact, the questions children ask – that stem from the curiosity children feature – are not as far-fetched and unimportant as they may seem at first blush.
In fact, Mortimer J. Adler and Charles Van Doren even go as far as comparing the questions children ask to great philosophical books:
“…we do want to recognize that one of the most remarkable things about the great philosophical books is that they ask the same sort of profound questions that children ask. The ability to retain the child’s view of the world, with at the same time a mature understanding of what it means to retain is, is extremely rare – and a person who has these qualities is likely to be able to contribute something really important to our thinking.
“We are not required to think as children in order to understand existence. Children certainly do not, and cannot, understand it – if, indeed, anyone can. But we must be able to see as children see, to wonder as they wonder, to ask as they ask. The complexities of adult life get in the way of the truth. The great philosophers have always been able to clear away the complexities and see simple distinctions – simple once they are stated, vastly difficult before. If we are to follow them we too must be childishly simple in our question – and maturely wise in our replies.”[Bold & Underline Emphasis Added]
Thus, in the child-like simplicity of asking questions one may embark on a voyage of curiosity that might contribute something phenomenal to our understanding. How else is an individual, be they a child or an adult, going to breakaway from the conventional stultification of life and gravitate towards something more intriguing, and more profound?
Knowing this we must be constant in our resolve, and impervious in our creative thoughts as we foster curiosity.
Then, and only then, do we have any chance to arrive at the answers that could truly change your life.
Perhaps, just perhaps, next time we talk to a child or have a genuine conversation with an adult we could remember that the next question you’re asked might just teach you something you’ve never known before.
An 11-year-old’s curiosity changed my life. When the last time a child’s curiosity – or anyone’s curiosity for that matter – changed yours?
Sources & References:
 Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren, How To Read A Book, pg. 264.
 Peter Kreeft, Philosophy 101 by Socrates, pg. 54.
 Frank L. Cioffi, The Imaginative Argument, pg. xvi.
 Mortimer J. Adler & Charles Van Doren, How To Read A Book, pg. 265.
Source: OutsideTheRealityMachine.wordpress.com | NomoreFakeNews.com
January 9, 2017
I wrote these notes after releasing my second collection, Exit From The Matrix. This collection contains over 50 imagination exercises designed to increase an individual’s creative power:
“Consciousness wants to create new consciousness, and it can. Imagination is how it does it. If there were some ultimate state of consciousness, imagination would always be able to play another card and take it further.”
“If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, we’ve flattered reality enough. It doesn’t need any more. Reality needs a massive injection of imagination.”
“Imagination can be used to invent a better shade of nail polish or a universe. In a society devoted to nail polish, imagination is not to blame.”
“Imagination has extraordinary equanimity. It is just as happy to entertain and embody two conflicting realities as it is to spool out one uniform reality.”
“You can create the same thing over and over, and eventually you’ll be about as alive as a table. Inject imagination into the mix, and everything suddenly changes. You can go anywhere you want to. You can build worlds.”
“The lowest common denominator of consensus implies an absence of imagination. Everyone agrees; everyone is bored; everyone is obedient. On the opposite end of the spectrum, there are massive floods of unique individual creation, and that sought-after thing called abundance is as natural as the sun rising in the morning.”
“Sitting around in a cosmic bus station waiting for reality is what reality is. Everything else is imagination.”
“There are those who believe life is a museum. You walk through the rooms, find one painting, stroll into it and take up permanent residence. But the museum is endless. And if you were a painter, you’d never decide to live inside one of your canvases forever. You’d keep on painting.”
“Traveling to places one has never seen is far different from creating something that never existed before.”
“The relentless and obsessive search for all those things on which we can agree is a confession of bankruptcy. Instead, build one new thing.”
“We re-learn to live through and by imagination, and then we enter and invent new space and time. But space and time aren’t the superior forces. They operate and come into being at the tap of imagination.”
“With imagination, one can solve a problem. More importantly, one can skip ahead of the problem and render it null and void.”
“You can enter imagination as if were an infinitely fluid medium, or you can give it sharp lines and edges. You can balance left and right, or you can tilt it eighty degrees to the right. You can do anything you want to. You can put a million pink quarks in a bowl and turn the bowl upside down in the sky. It’s Tuesday or it’s Thursday. It’s raining. The sun is out. It’s raining and the sun is out.”
“There are a billion murals on a billion walls, and the person chooses one and falls down before it and devotes himself to it. He spends a thousand years trying to decipher it. So be it. Eventually, he’ll wind his way out of the labyrinth. Then he’ll enter another labyrinth and undergo the same process. He’ll do this on and on and on, and finally he’ll see that he can imagine his own labyrinth. So he does. He invents many labyrinths. Then one day, it’ll occur to him that he can imagine whatever he wants to. It doesn’t have to be labyrinth.”
“What feeds back to you from the product of your imagination is far less important than the fact that you imagined it. People love to ensnare themselves in what they have imagined. They try to inject meaning into it, so much meaning that they become tied up in useless interpretations. They are the ‘product people’. Dreams, paintings, collections of ideas and thoughts—they are obsessed with what they have invented. Just look at what you’ve created it, enjoy it, revel in it, and go on to create something else. This is the path.”
“You can imagine a cosmos that is a forgery of, and a substitute for, the individual. In fact, historically, people have done that on a continuous basis. It’s called organized religion.”
“Imagination isn’t a system. It might invent systems, but it is non-material. It’s a capacity. It feels no compulsion to imitate reality. It makes realities. Its scope is limited only by a person’s imagining of…
The author of three explosive collections, THE MATRIX REVEALED, EXIT FROM THE MATRIX, and POWER OUTSIDE THE MATRIX, Jon was a candidate for a US Congressional seat in the 29th District of California. He maintains a consulting practice for private clients, the purpose of which is the expansion of personal creative power. Nominated for a Pulitzer Prize, he has worked as an investigative reporter for 30 years, writing articles on politics, medicine, and health for CBS Healthwatch, LA Weekly, Spin Magazine, Stern, and other newspapers and magazines in the US and Europe. Jon has delivered lectures and seminars on global politics, health, logic, and creative power to audiences around the world. You can sign up for his free emails at NoMoreFakeNews.com or OutsideTheRealityMachine.
Professor Patrick Deneen
February 2, 2016
My students are know-nothings. They are exceedingly nice, pleasant, trustworthy, mostly honest, well-intentioned, and utterly decent. But their brains are largely empty, devoid of any substantial knowledge that might be the fruits of an education in an inheritance and a gift of a previous generation. They are the culmination of western civilization, a civilization that has forgotten nearly everything about itself, and as a result, has achieved near-perfect indifference to its own culture.
It’s difficult to gain admissions to the schools where I’ve taught – Princeton, Georgetown, and now Notre Dame. Students at these institutions have done what has been demanded of them: they are superb test-takers, they know exactly what is needed to get an A in every class (meaning that they rarely allow themselves to become passionate and invested in any one subject); they build superb resumes. They are respectful and cordial to their elders, though easy-going if crude with their peers. They respect diversity (without having the slightest clue what diversity is) and they are experts in the arts of non-judgmentalism (at least publically). They are the cream of their generation, the masters of the universe, a generation-in-waiting to run America and the world.
But ask them some basic questions about the civilization they will be inheriting, and be prepared for averted eyes and somewhat panicked looks. Who fought in the Peloponnesian War? Who taught Plato, and whom did Plato teach? How did Socrates die? Raise your hand if you have read both the Iliad and the Odyssey. The Canterbury Tales? Paradise Lost? The Inferno?
Who was Saul of Tarsus? What were the 95 theses, who wrote them, and what was their effect? Why does the Magna Carta matter? How and where did Thomas Becket die? Who was Guy Fawkes, and why is there a day named after him? What did Lincoln say in his Second Inaugural? His first Inaugural? How about his third Inaugural? What are the Federalist Papers?
Some students, due most often to serendipitous class choices or a quirky old-fashioned teacher, might know a few of these answers. But most students have not been educated to know them. At best, they possess accidental knowledge, but otherwise are masters of systematic ignorance. It is not their “fault” for pervasive ignorance of western and American history, civilization, politics, art and literature. They have learned exactly what we have asked of them – to be like mayflies, alive by happenstance in a fleeting present.
Our students’ ignorance is not a failing of the educational system – it is its crowning achievement. Efforts by several generations of philosophers and reformers and public policy experts — whom our students (and most of us) know nothing about — have combined to produce a generation of know-nothings. The pervasive ignorance of our students is not a mere accident or unfortunate but correctible outcome, if only we hire better teachers or tweak the reading lists in high school. It is the consequence of a civilizational commitment to civilizational suicide. The end of history for our students signals the End of History for the West.
During my lifetime, lamentation over student ignorance has been sounded by the likes of E.D. Hirsch, Allan Bloom, Mark Bauerlein and Jay Leno, among many others. But these lamentations have been leavened with the hope that appeal to our and their better angels might reverse the trend (that’s an allusion to Lincoln’s first inaugural address, by the way). E.D. Hirsch even worked up a self-help curriculum, a do-it yourself guide on how to become culturally literate, imbued with the can-do American spirit that cultural defenestration could be reversed by a good reading list in the appendix. Broadly missing is sufficient appreciation that this ignorance is the intended consequence of our educational system, a sign of its robust health and success.
We have fallen into the bad and unquestioned habit of thinking that our educational system is broken, but it is working on all cylinders. What our educational system aims to produce is cultural amnesia, a wholesale lack of curiosity, history-less free agents, and educational goals composed of content-free processes and unexamined buzz-words like “critical thinking,” “diversity,” “ways of knowing,” “social justice,” and “cultural competence.”
Our students are the achievement of a systemic commitment to producing individuals without a past for whom the future is a foreign country, cultureless ciphers who can live anywhere and perform any kind of work without inquiring about its purposes or ends, perfected tools for an economic system that prizes “flexibility” (geographic, interpersonal, ethical).
In such a world, possessing a culture, a history, an inheritance, a commitment to a place and particular people, specific forms of gratitude and indebtedness (rather than a generalized and deracinated commitment to “social justice”), a strong set of ethical and moral norms that assert definite limits to what one ought and ought not to do (aside from being “judgmental”) are hindrances and handicaps.
Regardless of major or course of study, the main object of modern education is to sand off remnants of any cultural or historical specificity and identity that might still stick to our students, to make them perfect company men and women for a modern polity and economy that penalizes deep commitments. Efforts first to foster appreciation for “multi-culturalism” signaled a dedication to eviscerate any particular cultural inheritance, while the current fad of “diversity” signals thoroughgoing commitment to de-cultured and relentless homogenization.
We Must Know…What?
Above all, the one overarching lesson that students receive is the true end of education: the only essential knowledge is that know ourselves to be radically autonomous selves within a comprehensive global system with a common commitment to mutual indifference. Our commitment to mutual indifference is what binds us together as a global people. Any remnant of a common culture would interfere with this prime directive: a common culture would imply that we share something thicker, an inheritance that we did not create, and a set of commitments that imply limits and particular devotions.
Ancient philosophy and practice praised as an excellent form of government a res publica – a devotion to public things, things we share together. We have instead created the world’s first Res Idiotica – from the Greek word idiotes, meaning “private individual.” Our education system produces solipsistic, self-contained selves whose only public commitment is an absence of commitment to a public, a common culture, a shared history. They are perfectly hollowed vessels, receptive and obedient, without any real obligations or devotions.
They won’t fight against anyone, because that’s not seemly, but they won’t fight for anyone or anything either. They are living in a perpetual Truman Show, a world constructed yesterday that is nothing more than a set for their solipsism, without any history or trajectory.
I love my students – like any human being, each has enormous potential and great gifts to bestow upon the world. But I weep for them, for what is rightfully theirs but hasn’t been given. On our best days, I discern their longing and anguish and I know that their innate human desire to know who they are, where they have come from, where they ought to go, and how they ought to live will always reassert itself. But even on those better days, I can’t help but hold the hopeful thought that the world they have inherited – a world without inheritance, without past, future, or deepest cares – is about to come tumbling down, and that this collapse would be the true beginning of a real education.
Patrick Deneen is David A. Potenziani Memorial Associate Professor of Constitutional Studies at Notre Dame.
Interesting that as adults were told not to question authority…