An Ode to Curiosity

Can curiosity kill the cat...or will it save it?


“The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.”- Albert Einstein

“Judge a man by his questions, rather than by his answers.”- Voltaire

They say that curiosity killed the cat, but I think that curiosity is what may well save us.

Can you imagine what the world would be like without it?

Rumor has it that, as he sat underneath an apple tree, Isaac Newton wondered why an apple would fall straight down on his head, instead of sideways—or even upward. And so, his three Laws of Motion were born.  He could have just iced his throbbing head.

Lucky for us, curiosity won over that day and it had also led to inventions ranging from electricity, antibiotics, the printing press, and, naturally, the Internet—whether the inventors were seeking answers, were trying to solve problems, or were merely trying to re-envision something old in a new way.

There's a reason why NASA named their Mars Rover Curiosity.

It is the driver behind scientific discoveries, technological innovation, and if applied correctly, it's also what allows us to listen to each other and develop better ideas.  It’s about looking at things from a different angle and asking questions that may not even have any answers…yet. And when one is truly curious, one is also open to any outcome, which allows greater opportunities for discovery and openness towards new ideas…and inevitably, the people who have them.

When you’re curious, life is never boring because there’s always far more to explore than you possible could in a single lifetime.  There more you investigate, the more possibilities open up, too. It doesn’t hurt that our brains happen to release dopamine when we encounter new things either!

Curiosity is about the desire to find out what things are, or what others might think. It’s about exploring alternatives. It is NOT, however, by default, about enforcing your own views. Sometimes it's best to just ask a question and listen. To assume an answer, is counterintuitive to curiosity. What would society be like if we didn’t assume things about people and their stances or motivations and instead bothered to ask?

Curiosity also means recognizing that you may not have all the answers.

When you’re curious, you discover more about the people around you and therefore form better, closer relationships.

That applies to strangers you might meet as well. I always say that even the most seemingly-boring person has a good solid hour of interesting conversation in them. If I don’t get to it, then it’s my failing.

There are many ways to spark your own curiosity: Dive into a topic you normally wouldn’t. Be open to new possibilities. Try to find other ways to look at something that seems ordinary on the surface.  When you read a news article or feature, ask yourself, what's missing?

Kids tend to ask the darndest questions. They know so little about the world, but they are eager to learn more. As adults, we often trade-in the curiosity of our youth for certainty.  That’s why when a child asks: “Why?,” it is a parental crime to merely respond with: “Because.”

But let’s go back to the original, often repeated quote: “Curiosity killed the cat.” It generally serves as a warning. Except, as it turns out, the full quote is: "Curiosity killed the cat, but satisfaction brought it back." How peculiar is it that only the first part of that quote seems to have been widely popularized? Something to consider.

But, before I go, I’d like to leave you with another quote. This time from Albert Einstein (who has no shortage of good quotes):  “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.” 

Be passionately curious.