Blessed are the curious…

blessed are the curious - original art by duane toops

I have an almost irrational and obsessive belief in curiosity, that is to say, I believe in being irrationally curious and irrationally obsessed with what makes me curious. I don’t believe in avoiding rabbit holes. Instead, I believe that consistently falling down them is an experience and an activity that we should continuously seek out.

T.K. Coleman points out that “People tend not to move towards something unless they’re moved by something.”  The things that can find a way to call out to our curiosity from above the noise and chatter of our clamorous culture are things that are worth paying attention to, no matter how nonsensical they may seem. The fact that our interest in them makes no sense, makes them all the more interesting to explore. There is a mystery a foot; an outer ambiguity awakens an ineffability within us, and we are given the chance to give chase, to see how far down the rabbit hole goes, to find out where it leads.

Curiosity is, by nature and perhaps even by design, strange, unusual, and marked by a strong and outrageous desire to learn something. It is an invitation to learn something we didn’t know before; something about the world, and something about ourselves. One needn’t have a ‘reason’ or a ‘purpose’ beyond that; curiosity is, itself, the reason, though it is not always rational; it is it’s own purpose, though it is not always apparently practical.

More often than not, what is considered to be useful, practical, rational, reasonable, meaningful, valuable, and/or important are judgments imposed upon us by outside forces; forces that care more about making sure that we are aligned with the arbitrary metric of their values, rather than having any concern as to whether or not they align with the measure of our own values. Rob Walker writes that “Creativity starts with engaging with the world on your own terms, noticing what others miss, and attending to what matters most to you. That is: Deciding what’s valuable to you even if it seems, even if it is , useless.”

Rainer Maria Rilke says that you must “go into yourself and see how deep the place is from which your life flows; at its source you will find the answer to the question… Accept that answer, just as it is given to you, without trying to interpret it.” He says that nothing will disturb your development “more violently than by looking outside and waiting for outside answers to questions that only your innermost feeling, in your quest hour, can perhaps answer.”As Amanda Palmer makes clear “an artist you cannot turn off the voice in your head that’s coming up with the unnecessary because its the unnecessary that gives birth to stories and songs. ” As an artist, one must vehemently believe that the unnecessary is profoundly necessary.

We have to embrace the unexpectedness of being swept off. We have to “trust [our] obsessions”, as Neil Gaiman says, we have to go where they take us. We have to watch, observe, attend to and make the things we must. Adam Savage explains that “bringing anything into the world requires at least a small helping of obsession” because “Obsession is the gravity of making. It moves things, it binds them together, and gives them structure.” It has the capacity to “teach us about who we are, and who we want to be.” And, when we practice this kind of “noticing and appreciating we’re practicing” what John Brehm describes as “a form of loving awareness”. He says that “We are practicing being with” the things that we are directing our curious and obsessive attention towards, “rather than  demanding that it be what we think it should be or that it confess to us what it really means.”

Nothing is irrelevant when you realize that you are not searching for answers but, learning to ask better questions. Yes, it will lead you off the beaten path. And yes, it will take you to places of discomfort, places laced with the angst ambiguity and the anxiety of uncertainty but, it will also lead you to wonder.


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