Have you heard the saying, “curiosity killed the cat?” It has been used for generations to warn children of danger. As a boy, visiting a large pig-barn with my father, I was left alone beside a big red button. Note to parents: never leave your little boy alone in front of a big red button. There is no will-power in the world that can resist it. After a very short internal struggle, I pressed the button and it set off alarms all over the place. I may not have “killed the cat,” but curiosity got me in a bit of trouble that day.
Here’s something interesting, however. The original proverb was not, “curiosity killed the cat,” but from William Shakespeare who wrote, “care [worry] killed the cat.” Worry can cause a lot of grief and Shakespeare worked the idea in to his play. So maybe we can let ‘curiosity’ off the hook for ‘killing cats’ the world over. Curiosity is not as bad as we think, in fact, it may be more important than we have given it credit for.
A study was done by psychologists at the University of Buffalo which found that curiosity is actually vital to our wellbeing. They found that the more a person fosters curiosity in their lives, the more likely they are to find opportunities for personal growth and increased levels of intimacy in their relationships. Curiosity influences the ways we meet new people and those with high levels of curiosity are likely to have positive experiences with others. Curiosity may also play a role in how we deal with stress and how we communicate with others. Curiosity is a gift.
Curiosity is that motivation we feel to recognize, follow-up-with, and engage with new or challenging experiences. It’s saying, ‘yes’ to new people, places, and ideas. Curiosity is about being attentive to the world around us and actively finding ways of being present there.
Saint Augustine, who lived about 1600 years ago, wrote about the importance of curiosity for his own life. He said, “Free curiosity is of more value than harsh discipline.” When he looked back on his life, he found that throughout his story were moments where his own curiosity, unbeknownst to him, was leading him towards beautiful relationships and faith in God. Curiosity led him to stand in wonder at all that he saw. Augustine was deeply moved by this and spent his life seeking to become curious, actively choosing daily to seek out God’s beauty in the people and world around him. When we choose to step out and discover the wonder in neighbours around us, or when we actively engage a new relationships, we set ourselves up to be surprised in some positive and unexpected ways.
Albert Einstein said, “I have no special talents. I am only passionately curious.” What would it mean if we chose to be ‘passionately curious’ about our city and our neighbourhood? Is it possible that curiosity could change our outlook, wellbeing, relationships, faith, and family life?
Here are five ways to foster curiosity in your life this week. First, find something fascinating and follow it up, go deep and ask the silly questions. Second, take someone for coffee and ask them to share their ideas with you; it’s amazing what inspiring things others know. People are neat like that. Third, remember that worry, not curiosity, ‘killed the cat.’ So let go of worry and step into curiosity. Fourth, embrace a mystery. Wonder about who you are and what you were made for. Fifth, change up your labels for others. Instead of seeing a ‘cashier’ or ‘teenager’ think of the people in your neighbourhood in new ways. In all things, live curiously.