Saturday, May 09, 2020

In Praise of Curiousity

One of the best things any parent could do for a child's future is to foster the  child's inborn sense of wonder and unknowing...their curiosity about themselves, the world around them, the people, machines, plants, flowers, trees, rivers, mountains, animals, insects, the moon and stars...the whole shebang.

On the other hand (I have many hands ;-)

  • We live in an age where everyone knows everything about everything thanks to the ever present Google machine.

  • We live in an age where the life-preservers of nature, love, meaning and wisdom are in short supply while we drown in a sea of inanity, commercial or political propaganda, and fantasy.

I'd subscribe to the latter. It's not that you can't learn from the web, radio or television but rather that they are filled with noise.

I am using the word noise both in a signal processing sense and in the interior human sense of a mind filled with noise. The noise described by the Buddhist concept of monkey mind which can be quieted by meditation and paying attention to our breathing. We can also use the Christian concept of contemplative prayer to quiet one's mind to hear that still small voice inside us. Not to get too far afield, but the little old ladies that prayed the rosary when I was an altar boy had this figured out but I was too immature to understand that at the time.


Individuals need a good filter (analytic ability and some sort of mind-quieting techniques) to separate out the signal from the noise, and convert that signal into useful knowledge.

What I mean by analytic ability is the process of isolating parts of some thing for inspection. It's a process that vending machine repairmen, analytic philosophers, motorcycle mechanics, software programmers and scientists use regularly.

For all of us but particularly for those of us who like me, may be a tad to sure of what we know, or those who don't have the time, inclination or ability to hone our analytic or meditative skills it would be good to practice some humility when it comes to our certainty of knowing anything other than what we experience directly in the world (and maybe be a bit skeptical about that too because we are experts at fooling ourselves into believing what we want to believe).

In summary - if adults could realize they know less than children do about the important stuff we might find many of our human-caused problems would be much easier to solve. This is not a new idea and is in some ways an invitation to joy..or at least a lot of fun.

"Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.  Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me."
 Matthew 18 NIV