Watching our grandchildren in their first year of life reminded me that people learn because they are curious. Everything is new to young children, so they explore whatever they see. They touch, taste, smell, and play with, trying to figure out what the object is all about.
As we grow older we continue to learn as we explore, until we get to school. Then we are told we can only explore those items and subjects which our teachers tell us we can explore. Natural curiosity is slowly discouraged and conformity becomes the norm in life. But as soon as we get out of the classroom we continue exploring our world. Bugs, magnifying glasses, forests, streams, caves, and books become places where our curiosity can be satisfied.
I remember going to our branch library, called Maple Valley Library, and exploring various topics, reading every book in that section. I read of gangsters in New York and Chicago. Jazz music interested me so I read about the various musicians and styles from various cities. Some days I just wandered through the card catalog (yes, the old-fashioned wooden box with many small drawers filled with cards) looking for something else to explore.
On some Sunday afternoons we went hiking with Dick and Larry and their dad. We wandered city parks, especially The Gorge, pretending we were early pioneers looking for places to settle our families. In one section Chuck, Dick and Larry’s dad, would tell us about Moses and Israel crossing the Red Sea as we walked through a narrow gap with high walls on each side. We looked for animal tracks, investigated various bugs and worms we found under rocks.
As an adult I’m still curious. I read widely – mystery’s, biographies, current events, politics – all seeking to learn what I do not know much about. I remember years ago a teacher at Michigan State telling us that when we graduated 90% of our reading needed to be outside our field of expertise. At the time we did not understand, but upon graduation slowly began to realize she was right. After gaining an advanced degree you are a supposed expert, but your expertise is narrowed so that you sometimes can’t see anything else. She reminded us there was a wide world to explore, and I’m on that journey.
The old saw says curiosity killed the cat, but I find that without curiosity I’ll stagnate, stuck in problem-solving techniques which may no longer work, and bored looking at the same things day after day. Walt Disney said, “We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.” I enjoy the paths.