Recently I was working outside on my laptop. A small florescent green bug came to roost. It marched back and forth on the top of the screen from one end to the other. It didn’t fly. It didn’t hop. It just marched back and forth like Groucho Marx in a tuxedo. It did a little jig at each end, bobbing up and down like a bird, before it turned to go the other way. Why in the world? I watched in utter fascination. What powers a bug brain? Does it know it is making these choices? Or is it programmed? Not being a bug I had no preconceived ideas about how this particular bug should behave. I could remain in complete curiosity. Being human we’re pretty sure that we know how another should behave. But how can we possibly?
One of the simplest, most peaceful, and fun ways to go through life is with the mindset of absolute curiosity. Axiomatically, one of the best things we can do for our relationships is to approach those with whom we are in relationship with radical curiosity. Why do they do what they do, think what they think, and are interested in the things that they are? It’s all very fascinating. And, it’s pretty easy once you get the hang of it. All that is required is a different viewpoint. Curiosity, after all, is little more than maintaining a sense of awe, wonder, and inquisitiveness – a complete not knowing. Beginner’s mind.
Adventurers maintain beginner’s mind when traveling to, and in, unknown territories. Everything is fresh, new and unknown. Diligence is necessary. Isn’t learning different ways of being the goal of travel? Why do other cultures do what they do? Believe what they believe? Eat what they eat? For improved relationship – whether romance, work, or family – try approaching those with whom you are in relationship with the mind of a curious adventurer. When you do, watch the other person light up as you set about discovering all the little quirks and foibles that make them who they are. Each person you meet is a vast universe in of themselves.
All of Our Many Differences
We are so vastly different…. in our
- Tastes in food, entertainment, décor, music
- Special high places, low places, forbidden places, and secret passageways
- Customs, traditions, celebrations and holidays
- Border patrols and security – one person has loose borders; others are stringent
- Climates, temperatures, weather, dispositions
- Ways of personal expression through dance, athletics, acting, yoga, extreme sports
- Ideas on what makes a friend, how to choose friends, and when friendships should end
- Ideas of our work in the world
- Desired balance of being together and being apart
- Sexual preferences and behaviors
- Many and diverse practices and beliefs around life and death.
There are many more, or course.
The Radical Tourist
To be a good traveler one must be radically curious about why others do what they do, love what they love, are motivated by the things that they are, or scared by some things and not by others. What’s their story? It’s so… well… human to think that others are just like us, or maybe only just a teeny bit different than we are. Nope. Each one of us is totally unique and vastly different. The discovery of just how different we are begins and ends with curiosity. The people with whom we are in relationship are not the same today as they were yesterday. Heck, they’re not the same as they were an hour ago. Curious will reveal the ways in which that is true. When we’re truly curious about self, others, and the relationship, we take the lid off. Expectations are gone. New possibilities have room to grow.
“Direct your eye right inward, and you’ll find a thousand regions in your mind yet undiscovered.
Travel them, and be expert in home-cosmography.” ~ Henry David Thoreau
What’s your story? How curious are you about the things that you do? Have you discovered your own secret places? Are you familiar with your own security system? You may want to pull out your journal and begin to explore your own land by using the bullet points above. What are your tastes in food, music and décor? Do you know your tastes clearly enough to articulate them to another person? Self-observation is a life skill; communicating your preferences is a relationship skill.
A Whole New World
Curiosity is the place of not knowing. It is the place where white and black come together to form something new. It is being open to looking at things in many different ways. Someone once asked me what our world might look like if we had three different primary colors. Rather than the yellow, red and blue that we have, maybe we would have 3 colors we’ve never even thought of. Being the basis of everything, our world would look very different.
What Gets in the Way of Curiosity?
If curiosity is a deep ‘not knowing’ then things like having to know, or being right, or insisting on control – of another person or circumstances – would certainly get in the way of being curious. Culturally we believe that it is safer and more admirable to have the right answer, to know what to do and how to do it. We believe that controlling our world will keep us on the right side of failure – whether that pending failure is real or imagined. Knowing gives us a false sense of safety. If I keep you in a box where (I pretend) I can moderate you, you’re a lot safer to me than out running around being – well – unpredictable you. How dare you pop my illusion of control by being unpredictable! Curiosity has us let go of all standards, rules, control, illusions. It is a very present moment activity.
When we believe we are right we are but a small step away from judging others, and ourselves, as right or wrong when things don’t live up to our predetermined standard. Judging kills curiosity. Judgment and curiosity are like oil and water or light and darkness. They cannot exist in the same space. Flip on a light switch in a darkened room and the darkness vanishes. Flip on curiosity and judgment vanishes. Judgment causes separation. Curiosity creates closeness. Knowing this gives us choices.
After you’ve explored your own universe you might want to use those same bullet points above to interview other people in your life and learn about their world. How deep can you take your own curiosity? Curiosity begets curiosity. Plant the seed and watch it grow. I’d love to know what you find out – about yourself, others, or this different way of looking at the world.