Wednesday, July 16, 2014

On Curiosity

I am a very curious person. I like looking up random facts and tucking them away in my mental pockets, to pull them out and study them later. I enjoy microscopes and bits of information and sitting very still in various locations to see what happens when I do that. Curiosity, though, seems to be for the young. If I do a google search on "places for curious people" I inevitably come up with 80% children's museums, 15% adult reenactment websites, and 5% restaurants.

Where is the place for grownups who are curious about things? Some people might argue "graduate school", but I think most people who have attended graduate school know that there is generally very little room for curiosity in graduate school. I try to rope my friends into being curious with me, with usually quite limited success. I have resorted to sort of randomly barraging them with new knowledge while they snack on queso during a sporting event. And the thing is, I have amazing friends who are all quite talented and intelligent and interested in things. Yet, I can count on one hand the number of people I know that are just CURIOUS. And those people are just as fed-up with this situation as I am. Why are children the only ones encouraged to be curious? "Youth is wasted on the young", indeed. Where's my version of a children's museum, filled with science experiments and factoids and water tables? Some people point me to Makerspaces, which....ok? I suppose? but I'm not a builder. I see that these are fellow-curious people, but they want to discuss engineering concepts and solutions to physical problems. Makerspaces are also geared more towards the young, with the idea that curiosity can be commodified into generating engineers.

Another angle I've considered is political issues. Some people like to argue politics, but I do not think that discussing politics is an appropriate outlet for the intellectually curious, if I'm totally honest with myself. I find myself envying the old Royal Society of London (even though it's strictly scientists) for its camaraderie of inquisitiveness. But guess what? It's reserved for the "most eminent" scientists. If you are curious but not capable of successfully navigating the world of peer-reviewed research journals, you need not apply, sir.

 So where do the curious go, once they've grown up? I'm no Peter Pan, I have no desire to return to childhood. I just want to keep my curiosity going, to keep it fresh, to keep looking and learning and exploring knowledge. The internet assures me that I, as an adult, *should* be curious, because it makes me healthier and helps me live longer. As if curiosity can be turned on and off depending on how high my cholesterol is. Do people turn off their curiosity? Do they grow lazy? Have they learned everything already and I'm just lagging behind everyone else?

I bought a magnifying glass the other day. It seemed like a tool I could use. I also keep a tape measure near me in case of measuring opportunities. I keep my smartphone always, for checking Wikipedia or music lyrics or finding etymologies in the OED. I have no idea what drives me to be so curious, but I am and I like it. I just wish more other adults liked it, too.

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"Wicked people never have time for reading. It's one of the reasons for their wickedness." —Lemony Snicket, The Penultimate Peril.