As children, curiosity is a fundamental part of learning. Everything is new, and data is collected at a very fast rate. I remember feeling permanently confused when I was young. It seemed to come along with a curious response. There was a puzzle of life all around me, and I desperately wanted to know its pieces and how they fit together.
When I was in preschool I came home with a small stuffed toy heart. I accidentally dropped it in the gutter water outside my house. I had the brilliant idea to put it into the washing machine. When I came back the next day, I expected to find the heart inside the drum, all nice and clean. To my horror, it was nowhere to be found. All I knew of the washing machine was that you put dirty things in and they come out clean.
Unfortunately, I missed the crucial detail of soap and the power button, and someone much older and wiser than I had probably mixed that toy into some other load of laundry. I never saw it again, but I learned so much from the process. I learned about the laundry machine, why it could be useful to communicate about laundry, and also how to recognize my own attachment and willful detachment from something sentimental that I told myself I didn’t need. If I could have explained as eloquently back when I was four, it would be shocking to an adult. When I meet children I try to remember the depth of feeling that I grew up with, and empathize with what they might be feeling in their experiences.
Does this change when children become adults? Do we ever stop exploring? Unfortunately, the American educational system totes passive learning as the primary way to gain knowledge. It is up to the individual to discover their own self-education and take an active role in their learning. These people might get shamed for it, even, by being too passionate about a specific topic and earning the title of “nerd.” They might be unsatisfied by the passive learning environment and opt to each themselves. Later on it is difficult to meet standard requirements perpetuated by the public education system, even though they might be just as educated as a technical graduate.
Even when I see people slumped in their everyday routine, maintaining habits that keep them feeling safe, perhaps they are still processing and learning without intending to. Maybe they are learning more and more ways to stay stuck in their mindset, with new ways to avoid change or discomfort. Their subconscious will keep processing information, even without the awareness of the individual. Additionally, life has a tendency of being unpredictable and forcing growth and learning on the most unsuspecting individuals. How could you ever stop learning?
If exercising curiosity doesn’t seem to be a part of daily life, I can always practice a bit. When I turn on my observational mindset and take in the world with all of my senses, It is clear to see the things that I don’t understand. I ask myself a question, wonder a bit, create a hypothesis and wait for further data. If I were really feeling inquisitive I might seek that data, and I am bound to learn something eventually.
As fall becomes winter, I feel motivated to take a look around, take a look at myself, and explore all that I can with a light heart and an open mind. There is no limit to what I might find!