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Featured Learning Reflection

Follow your curiosity deeper

Replied to The Power of Indulging Your Weird, Offbeat Obsessions by an author (Medium)

It’s enormously valuable to simply follow your curiosity—and follow it for a really long time, even if it doesn’t seem to be leading anywhere in particular.

This reminds me of when I traveled to the Mediterranean after high school; my coach didn’t think we were exhibiting enough Wonder as we encountered history, and made us write an extra essay about it. But what does Wonder look like? Must it be Awe, clearly written on your face, or can it be curiosity?

Wonder must be felt, it cannot be forced or faked; likewise, curiosity. There are many instances when fake it till you make it applies, but performing wonder or awe or curiosity for someone else I suspect prevents it from being felt. Someone else cannot tell you an experience is meaningful; you assign your own meaning. No one else can be curious on your behalf; you must find your own curiosities.

You can create conditions more friendly to experiencing the emotions you seek, but the emotion is not guaranteed. Place is one way to prompt connection with the past, but having expectations of emotional meaning makes it easier to disrupt. We got up early to run the track at Delphi; the landscapers were there too, leaf-blowing. The modern din forestalled a bond with the priestesses of yore. Likewise, too much intent strains curiosity; it is an invitation to be followed, not a certain path. Expecting a direct trail keeps you from seeing the cairns and blazes marking a way off to one side, or reading the topography for the easiest passage.

I like this encouragement to indulge my curiosity because sometimes I’ll be intrigued by something, then remind myself I have no reason to learn more about it or save it because there’s nothing about the information that’s relevant to my life or work. And sometimes that is true, but practicing curiosity inculcates that perspective in your thought habits, making it easier to be curious about more things.

Is the same true for wonder? Were we not trying hard enough to feel it? Is it a state of mind that practice can bring you to more readily? Both Wonder and curiosity require openness and humility, but feeling Wonder also takes vulnerability. Curiosity, in contrast, needs an acceptance of inefficiency. These additional demands may make one more challenging for some to feel than another.

In Egypt, I doodled motifs from the walls of an ancient tomb — sketching and photography were my way of absorbing what I was seeing. Curiosity is an active engagement that adds to what exists, ciphering it through the self; Wonder is a receiving and a changing of the self. Curiosity seeks to unravel the mysterious; Wonder values the mysterious for itself. Constitutionally, I am more suited to curiosity than Wonder.

By Tracy Durnell

Writer and designer in the Seattle area. Freelance sustainability consultant. Reach me at tracy.durnell@gmail.com. She/her.

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