By Ian Leslie
This book will help you:
- Understand how curiosity is important for creativity and work
- Intentionally cultivate curiosity in yourself and your children
I think of myself as very curious and I love learning new things. In fact, writing this column has been a great experience for me as I have exposed myself to many new ideas and views through the books I have been reading. Knowledge and curiosity build on each other and help you be creative. The author discusses how in the workforce, creative individuals who can collaborate and use their imagination will be in higher demand, as many non-creative jobs are being automated by computers and machines. Creativity and curiosity don’t happen on a “blank slate.” The more facts and knowledge you learn, the more opportunity you have to be curious and creative and shake ideas around to make new combinations.
Curiosity is often considered a trait of childhood because children are constantly learning new things and noticing things in a new way. To keep life passionate and interesting, curiosity may be cultivated and valued for adults as well. Often, as we grow older, our thirst for new learning dies down and we end up in a dull and static rut. This takes a toll on our creativity and vitality. However, you can decide to keep your mind open and curious by asking why, questioning even the little things, and staying in a state of wonder. I’m finding that in the years after (finally) finishing my education, I have the opportunity to follow my curiosity and explore topics that personally interest me in a way that I want to learn them, instead of being restricted by school’s expectations or requirements, and it has been really fun.
In this age of technology and Google,
we are in danger of atrophying our curiosity because it is so easy
to find out answers quickly and move on to a new tidbit
Leslie points out that as humans, we are the only creatures able to question things. It is true that some animals can learn facts or how to communicate on a basic level, but they do not have the critical thinking abilities to ask “why.” There are two types of curiosity: Diversive curiosity is the wide and shallow search for new and novel knowledge and facts, while epistemic curiosity is the desire for deeper research. Diversive curiosity is easily satisfied with a Google search or a click on an article. But epistemic curiosity appeals to a delving into the topic for a deeper understanding. Epistemic curiosity requires perseverance for knowledge and a passion for the topic.
In this age of technology and Google, we are in danger of atrophying our curiosity because it is so easy to find out answers quickly and move on to a new tidbit. Amazingly, we have a tremendous amount of knowledge available literally at our fingertips, but many people just use it for quick and novel stimulation. Instead, we can nurture our desire for a fuller and richer learning. From an individual who discovered the excitement of curiosity and learning: “I was suddenly seeing that the world is incredibly interesting. If you’re paying attention, everything in the world – from the nature of gravity, to a pigeon’s head, to a blade of grass – is extraordinary. The closer you look at anything, the more interesting it gets. But nobody tells you this.”
This state of paying attention and wonder is echoed in different disciplines. For example, mindfulness practice maintains the value and benefit of being in the moment and noticing the present in detail. Mindfulness practice includes paying full attention to something, like your body in the moment, or the raisin you are holding. Additionally, the Torah values appreciating G-d’s world and taking pleasure from what has been created for us, in a similar approach to the careful noticing of mindfulness, curiosity, and interest.
(The sentences above are an exact example of the collaboration of multiple kinds of knowledge that come together creatively. Because I have had the opportunity to learn about mindfulness and utilize the concepts of hakaras hatov, as I was writing this I was able to put all those ideas together and share them. If I knew nothing about mindfulness or the stories of Rabbi Avigdor Miller’s intense appreciation for Hashem’s creations, then I wouldn’t be noticing the connections between all these ideas. I’m enjoying the connections because there is obviously a universal truth and positive life benefit to noticing, appreciating, paying attention, and wondering about the world and its details.)
My parents have mentioned many times that they specifically made sure to respond positively to the many questions their children asked in order to cultivate critical thinking. There comes a certain age when children start asking “why” constantly and it can be hard to answer it all with patience when you just want them to be quiet already. Reading about cultivating curiosity has encouraged me to do this more for my children so that they can continue a love for learning. I hope that I always stay curious – there is so much to learn and know!
Eta Feuerman-Yaeger, LCSW, is a child and family play therapist with a private practice in Queens. Check out her website at feuermanyaegertherapy.wordpress.com.