Do you want to be curious, or afraid? You can’t be both.
Do you believe curiosity is a sin? I’m sure you’ve been told at least once that you should be less curious. But curiosity is a natural quality of every human being.
You were born curious.
Have you ever witnessed a toddler just going around and trying everything they possibly can, without fear of consequences?
It’s beautiful, isn’t it?
If you thought “it’s annoying”, it means you probably unconsciously formed the idea as a kid that if you are too curious, people will stop loving you. And if your parents stop loving you, they might abandon you, and you’ll die (not that fun anymore, right?).
Being curious was a risk.
So you “grew up”.
Adam and Eve
In the Book of Genesis, Adam and Eve are permitted to eat from any tree, but the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, “for on the day you eat of it you shall surely die”. From this point on, two things appear: the desire to know what is unknown and hidden, and the fear of death. While curiosity and fear are deeply linked to each other in the Scripture, as one exists only in relation to the other, they are also antagonist, as fully expressing one means fully suppressing the other.
Ultimately, fear is about avoiding the ultimate divine punishment: death. It is a primal feeling, based on previous experiences, meant as a warning for dangerous situations, which could lead to pain, whether physical or emotional. It is a perfectly valid feeling, as it has helped countless generations of beings stay alive until they can reproduce and ensure the survival of the species.
The problem is that, given our advances in civilization, we are mostly safe from the historical life-threatening dangers.
And in the absence of these, we have moved our fears to more mundane subjects: being rejected by a potential partner or a boss, not having enough money to afford the mortgage or the new car, or even the kid’s education. While they are all perfectly valid concerns, they are far from life-threatening. Given the worse, we could still go a bit closer to the equator and live in a tent on the beach.
Waking up to the sun reflecting on the water is not such a scary thought, is it?
Fear has one major consequence on the body: bring up the fight or fly response, which basically shuts down the part of our brain related to thinking and problem solving.
Let me rephrase that: if you are afraid, you can’t think.
Any high-level brain function is sacrificed in order to increase your chances of survival.
If you don’t resonate with the word fear, replace it with worry or stress, it’s all the same thing. If you’re too stressed, you’ll get stuck and accept whatever promise of relief you can get: sucking up to your boss, your spouse, your kids, a self-proclaimed guru, anything. Which is understandable, because when the stress is overwhelming, you need some help.
Curiosity is a state of free flowing and being. You are emotionally available and craving to explore a new subject or experience. There is no real care for consequences as one relinquishes fear and realizes that nothing really bad will happen, but lots of good things might. When we are curious, we can discover new territories (America?), new talents we didn’t know we had, and simply be willing to do more, learn more, train more, be more.
It’s asking “what if?” and going on a quest to discover the answers. There might be consequences, yes, but the desire of learning is stronger than the fear of potential bad consequences.
The whole learning process, as long as it’s natural and not forced, is based on intrinsic curiosity. This is how we grow, this is how we discover. Whatever new things you discovered in your life, you did so because you were curious enough to be open to them. You could have feared, you could have closed yourself up, but you were curious.
I believe that there is one type of energy, with a definite amount, that you can decide to feed your fear, or your curiosity. That is, if you decide to feed your curiosity, you will have less energy to feed your fear. And on the other hand, if you’re looking for every reason to be afraid of an endeavor, you will crush your curiosity and be miserable.
Once you realize that you’re in control of your energy, you can choose to focus on your fears, or on your curiosity. And if you worry or believe you’re not curious, well, the worry is the fear itself. Let go of it, ask your heart what it wants, and simply follow.
Fear makes one focus on the dangers of an unknown path, and triggers an avoidance mechanism thereby depriving of the experience and pleasure of the activity. It also impairs the ability to learn and integrate new habits and working knowledge. At the end of it, fear prevents creativity.
Being curious, on the contrary, is about feeling free and having the desire to discover new things, to learn how they work and how we relate and feel about them. Curiosity promotes the sharing of information, experiences, social connections, and more.
You can choose
As Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, you can decide for yourself whether you prefer to be stuck and afraid, or free and curious. It might not change your life completely in a day, but if you don’t choose to get unstuck from your fear, it will never change anyway, as you’ll stay in your own knowledge-deprived version of Eden. That’s too bad, because life on Earth is pretty damn interesting…
What steps are you taking to feed your curiosity?