Curiosity killed the cat, so they say. But I’ll tell you what will kill you even faster, and that’s not being curious. You may not actually die, but in a lot of ways you might as well have done. Because life lived with curiosity and wonder is a life lived properly alive. It might be safe and comfortable, but it will not make you thrive. Human beings need variety.
It’s an old film now, but if you’ve ever seen Groundhog Day you’ll have a frame of reference for what a repetitive, un-curious life will do to you. Bill Murray has to live the same day over and over – the same things happen the same way each day, and while that’s briefly amusing, soon it becomes maddening, eventually driving him to try to kill himself. Which he does. And wakes up in the same place the next morning, exactly the same.
The only way he gets out of this repetitive loop is to start to be curious. He spends time finding out about all the people in the town, getting new information, finding out how things work and what people like. He learns to play the piano. You start to feel that he’s having enough fun that this same day would be able to somehow sustain him for quite a while. How? He found variety and growth in his repetitive surroundings.
When someone loses their curiosity, when nothing is new for them, because they’ve seen it all – what’s left to do? What good is another day alive if it has nothing new to offer you? Trust me, you don’t want to get to the point where you’re wondering just what the point of being alive is. The thing is, there are people across this planet discovering thousands of new things every day, and you don’t yet know everything about everything. There’s a basically infinite world (and then universe) to find out about. You’re not done yet. Even finding out everything there is to know about one person will take you a lifetime.
When I was younger and I’d complain about being bored, my mum always used to say that if you are bored, it’s because you’re boring. And she’s right – if you were switched on, curious, wondering what might happen next or how something works, you could almost never be bored. And sure enough, when you’re younger, you still have enough curiosity to be left alone for a while to come up with something fascinating to do.
The problem is that as we get older, we have this curiosity beaten out of us. A little while of being a toddler teaches us that we have to stop trying to climb or open or pull apart things. A few questions in front of classmates or being too enthusiastic at school makes us stop looking like a keen bean or a know-it-all. We learn to keep our mouth shut. But we also learn to keep our eyes shut.
You are curious. It’s inside you, maybe buried under some history, but you were born curious and you’re not done yet. Start looking at the world with open eyes. Look up at the buildings and trees and sky. Find things you never noticed before, and keep the excitement you had when you were small and the world was still exciting. Because it hasn’t actually stopped being amazing out there.