Are You Curious? ;)

MarsI read about the Mars Rover Curiosity recently and was enthralled by Dr. Heidi Manning’s TEDxFargo talk this summer about her work on this mission. Could there be life on Mars? The question sparked a search for water, and the first surface samples confirm the presence of water. It will be fascinating to see how the work proceeds and what is discovered. They chose a wonderful name for this amazing vehicle.

Curiosity has been a repeated theme for me these past few days, and seems to have decided for me what to share this week! Defined as a desire to know or learn, it strikes me that curiosity is a key to a healthy, engaged life. I attended the Emerging Women conference this past weekend and the halls were filled with amazing attendees. Truth be told, I’m a little shy at such events, but curiosity allows me to connect with those I meet and learn their stories. I put the focus on them. Sincere curiosity guides my questions. What are their interests? What is their business like? What makes them tick? What drew them to the conference? Can I be helpful to them in any way, or can I ask for their help?

A major highlight of the weekend was hearing Elizabeth Gilbert speak, author of Eat, Pray, Love and several other novels. Her theme was creative curiosity as the guiding force in her life versus passion. She felt that passion was such an intimidating word, fraught with potential for disappointment. Do we need to have a constant burning flame of passion pushing our life and work in order for them to have meaning?

After her mega-hit book, Eat, Pray, Love, Gilbert had a literary dry spell, with no passion for writing. A friend suggested that she relax and take a break. “Don’t worry about following your passion for a while. Just follow your curiosity instead,” her friend advised. This took the pressure off, and she set her next unfinished manuscript down, and let soft intuitive clues guide her explorations and experiences. She also cultivated mindfulness to appreciate subtle beauty and gentleness everywhere.

She ended up in a garden amidst the tomatoes and pole beans. She let her curiosity be a calming diversion that gave her mind a rest. In a more relaxed state, she gained the insights needed to finish her manuscript. She reconnected with her rural childhood and fascination with plants. Her passion was rekindled when she perused a family heirloom book that contained botanical drawings from Captain Cook’s adventures. This ultimately inspired her latest book The Signature of All Things.

My son Grant is my window to unbridled curiosity. There is not a puddle left unstomped during a walk, nor a colored leaf uninspected. Kitchen gadgets are deconstructed and parts are found months later in the toy box, creatively coupled with Legos. I’ll never be a Pampered Chef, so I’m ok with their demise. Maybe Grant will be an engineer. Maybe he’ll be a surgeon. I’ll enjoy watching his curiosity guide his interests, and be inspired to keep curious as I go through life.

Being curious doesn’t always have to have a purpose. Certainly there are times that we seek information to solve a problem or accomplish a goal. But the best curious moments seem to be those serendipitously placed along our path, as doorways to new insights, ideas, innovation and art. Curiosity opens our minds and our hearts.

Albert Einstein wrote, “I have no special talent. I am just passionately curious.” Maybe curiosity will take you to Mars, into the woods or to the beach. Perhaps you’ll strike up a conversation that creates a new friendship. Maybe curiosity will take you back to your garden as you put it bed for the winter. But wherever it takes you, and whether that spark of curiosity begins a passionate fire of interest or simple gratitude for beauty, life is richer because of it. Wherever you look, there’s something more to see.