Curiosity Killed the Cat. . . .What May it Have in Store For You?
I wonder, what is your relationship to curiosity? How practiced are you in looking, listening or exploring beyond what you already know?
Igniting wonder and curiosity can be fun. These are words we associate with being childlike and playful. You might recall that wide open, soft-eyed gaze of an infant just taking in her surroundings. You may picture the toddler taking toys out of a basket one by one, or dumping the entire contents to the floor. In our native innocence, the unknown begs exploration.
When our curiosity is engaged we discover all sorts of things, both pleasant and unpleasant. Life becomes kind of like eating a box of Bertie Bott's Every Flavor Beans. Will this experience taste like marshmallow or earwax?
Curiosity brings rich rewards, but curiosity, like the proverbial cat learned, can also cost us something. Sometimes it costs releasing limiting belief to which we've been attached. Sometimes it asks us to let go of a fixed sense of identity for ourselves or another. Such significant shifts can upend our whole lives...something the Gospels remind us over and over again Jesus came to do. Remember when he put it this way? Don't think I've come to make life cozy. I've come to cut. . . cut through those cozy domestic arrangements and free you for God. (Matthew 10:34, The Message)
Years ago I was offered a touchstone for nurturing safe and sacred community that has challenged and shaped my own life in community:
When things get difficult, turn to wonder.
This touchstone encourages us to become curious about others and ourselves. When a child behaves in a way that shocks and disrupts, turn to wonder. Why that behavior? Why now? What has led up to this moment? Does this remind me of another time?
When a spouse or colleague digs in their heels, turn to wonder. Where is this really coming from? What might he be afraid of? What might she be trying to protect?
When we notice our own judgment toward another or ourselves, turn to wonder. What really touched a nerve? Why is that part so tender? When have I felt this before?
Perhaps the greatest cost of engaging such curiosity is dropping one of humanity's all time favorite illusions, the illusion that I know. Buying into this illusion makes us feel safe and secure. . . the way a credit card purchase might, until the balance of what we bought but could not afford catches up to us.
The same is true in life. We can cling to an illusion about who our spouse, child or parent is. We can cling to the same old narratives we always tell ourselves about why things are they way they are. Such illusions could be based on old realities, or they may rise from our vaporous hopes for the future. They most likely are deeply informed by our own projections. In any case, it's nearly impossible to locate ourselves, the other or God when we are attached to illusion. Illusion, I tell my students, is the only place we can't find God.
Curiosity restores our sight. The bright light of Reality can create some discomfort, but it is also the mark of resurrection. Curiosity might just kill a part of us, but it's also the pathway to new life. Isn't this downward journey, toward more and more letting go, the very energy of Lent?
What discomforting person or circumstance in your own life invites curiosity? Let go of what you think you know. Just let it go. Then lean in and say, "Tell me more." The curiosity that may kill you will also enlarge you.