Wednesday, October 17, 2007
Colleen Rice, Photographer,
Curiosity killed a cat! Ask me no questions and I'll tell you no lies."
-- Eugene O'Neill, Diff'rent
When clients who have had their creative lives or passions on hold come to their Wild Work, the first thing I ask them to do is to choose actions that help recover the curiosity they had as children. Ask people questions. Say "tell me more" when someone speaks a belief different than yours. Go off on side paths meant for wandering and wondering. Do something you haven't allowed yourself since childhood. Just watch for a while, without labeling what you think is happening. Find "why?" coming into your mind more often.
Children explore freely, enthusiastically. They take risks. When adults step in with fear or disapproval it kills their curiosity. (As does the absence of a parent, since a perception of safety and sharing the pleasure of exploration are key ingredients.) Adults, and especially artists, need to take risks too. Watching where we allow expressed or perceived disapproval to diminish our creative gifts is a great way to free up energy that can be used for one's art and work. I notice what tends to cut off my inquisitiveness is another's anger or judgment, which I'm learning to be curious about as a way to increase intimacy. I've also formed several good creative friends who will tell me what they see as the truth in any situation in which I feel stuck. I can check my actions and thoughts with them, and they're like my curiosity life preservers.
I'm curious about people and what motivates them. When I go back to Kentucky, in the region where I was born, I order a sweet tea and a barbecue sandwich and sit for a spell at the Shady Rest, where I like to listen to the conversations of the people around me. Writers call this research, not eavesdropping. I'm not interested in the specifics of what people say but in how they say it. I wrap myself in the dialect, its rhythm and inflections and silences. What subjects do they talk about? What shorthand do they use? How are they connected to the land, their history, the politics of the day? It was at these tables that I began to recognize the spiral-like dialogue of people who live on land for multiple generations. There are side stories of cousins and funerals and family reunions that sweep back toward the original subject before circling out to a peripheral talk and then back again. A dozen subjects, all interlinking, woven in a common knowing. Because of my curiosity, I learned of the complexity of these mostly rural people. I also learned that as a woman who has lived in a dozen places, I have never held the knowledge of what a place was before its current incarnation. As in: "Down by old Jim's Tavern, when it was a juke joint, before the gas station came in..." When we explore the world, we're exploring ourselves -- we find connections and differences that can lead us to further inquiry.
Being curious turns us into the quester. We learn more. We experience novelty (which produces dopamine in the brain, thus elevating our sense of well-being.) Once we start to break through our own barriers and fears, our curiosity can carry us, opening us to potentials we might not have known existed. Explorers, inventors, innovators, artists, and great leaders happen because they remain curious when others would seek to usurp the investigation.
What will you do to power up your curiosity this week? Here are a few of my choices:
* See what kind of colors mixed paints will create
* Have a meaningful conversation with a stranger
* Watch a film someone else suggests
* Try going slow and fast at the park to see what happens to my sight
* Ask my friends what this autumn is bringing on their curious quest