Questions are places in your mind where answers fit. If you haven’t asked the question, the answer has nowhere to go; it hits your mind and bounces off. —Christensen
I’m an oenophile — I enjoying studying about wine. One evening Mary and I were having dinner with friends and we opened a bottle of Cava, a sparkling wine made in Spain. I’m known as the local wine expert so someone asked me, “Don, what grapes are used to make Cava?” I was embarrassed because I didn’t know. That question (and the added emotional discomfort) formed a “space” in my mind. As soon as I could, I looked up the answer (Macabeo, Parellada, Xarel-Lo) and the answer immediately had a place to go. It is firmly in place and will never leave.
That’s why questions are so important. Answers abound but they remain unattached until matched with a question. We should always have more questions than answers because questions long for and search for answers. Questions are to answers what a magnet is to iron filings.
This helps explain the effectiveness of “teaching moments ” — times in our lives when we are eager and quick to learn because life has created a vacuum that is, at best uncomfortable and, at worst, painful, until it is filled with appropriate knowledge. Often, we don’t learn until we need to know. That’s why a curious mind is a good thing and a prerequisite for personal growth.
Curious people enjoy the interrogatives; what, why, when, who, where, and how.
Curiosity was a motivating force in the lives of two famous theoretical physicists: Albert Einstein and Stephen Hawking.
Einstein said, “I have no special talents; I am only passionately curious.” He also said, “The important thing is not to stop questioning…never lose a holy curiosity.”
In his first Facebook post (which reached 900,000 people in a few weeks), Stephen Hawking wrote, “I have always wondered what makes the universe exist. Time and space may forever be a mystery, but that has not stopped my pursuit. Our connections to one another have grown infinitely and now that I have the chance, I’m eager to share this journey with you. Be curious, I know I will forever be.”
[reminder]What are your thoughts about this essay?[/reminder]
What? – Curiosity is a valuable trait. Unanswered questions will lead us to a good place.
So what? – Be curious.
Now what? – To prime the “curiosity pump” write down five questions to which you want an answer.
Leaders – Consider the role that curiosity can play in your organization: the creation of products and services, understanding your stake holders, initiating change, etc. Is curiosity valued or sanctioned?
6 Replies to “Be curious”
don…your essay piqued my curiosity as to the origin of the word “curious” and the origin of the old saying “curiosity killed the cat!” i discovered that the word curious came from an old latin word meaning “to care” and is even related to the word “cure”. these derivations are interesting light of the short essay i have attached below on the subject of “killing the cat” from the Phrase Finder on line. So thanks for piquing my interest this morning. BTW, pique means, according to the Oxford Dictionary on my Mac: to stimulate curiosity!
Inquisitiveness can lead one into dangerous situations.
Everyone knows that, despite its supposed nine lives, curiosity killed the cat. Well, not quite. The ‘killed the cat’ proverb originated as ‘care killed the cat’. By ‘care’ the coiner of the expression meant ‘worry/sorrow’ rather than our more usual contemporary ‘look after/provide for’ meaning.
That form of the expression is first recorded in the English playwright Ben Jonson’s play Every Man in His Humour, 1598:
“Helter skelter, hang sorrow, care’ll kill a Cat, up-tails all, and a Louse for the Hangman.”
The play was one of the Tudor humours comedies, in which each major character is assigned a particular ‘humour’ or trait. The play is thought to have been performed in 1598 by The Lord Chamberlain’s Men, a troupe of actors including William Shakespeare and William Kempe. Shakespeare was no slouch when it came to appropriating a memorable line and it crops up the following year in Much Ado About Nothing:
“What, courage man! what though care killed a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care.”
The proverbial expression ‘curiosity killed the cat’, which is usually used when attempting to stop someone asking unwanted questions, is much more recent. The earlier form was still in use in 1898, when it was defined in Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable:
“Care killed the Cat. It is said that a cat has nine lives, but care would wear them all out.”
Curiosity hasn’t received a good press over the centuries. Saint Augustine wrote in Confessions, AD 397, that, in the eons before creating heaven and earth, God “fashioned hell for the inquisitive”. John Clarke, in Paroemiologia, 1639 suggested that “He that pryeth into every cloud may be struck with a thunderbolt”. In Don Juan, Lord Byron called curiosity “that low vice”. That bad opinion, and the fact that cats are notoriously inquisitive, led to the source of their demise being changed from ‘care’ to ‘curiosity’.
The earliest version that I have found of the precise current form of the proverb in print is from The Galveston Daily News, 1898:
It is said that once “curiosity killed a Thomas cat.”
[Thomas cat is a jokey form of tom cat, that is, a male cat.]
The frequent rejoinder to ‘curiosity killed the cat’ is ‘satisfaction brought it back’. I’ve not been able to trace the source of this odd reply. The first citation of it that I’ve found in print is from an Iowan college magazine The Coe College Cosmos, in February 1933.
Paul, thanks for the interesting dive into word meanings; it’s so fascinating to learn how words and phrases developed.
I look forward to our time together in Greece. I’m interested to hear your commentary on our places and events; you are so good at that.
Kind regards, Don
It is said that there is not stupid or dumb question than the one that is not asked. With regards regards to asking the question, even “I don’t know” is sometimes the appropriate answer. How have we come this far if we as a species never explored, asked the question or sought how God made things for us to discover. Just a few thoughts.
Thanks, Nelson, for taking the time to share your thoughts. I agree. One of the ways we honor God is by being ever curious about the wonderful world he has made and by using the mental abilities he has given us to pursue truth and beauty.
Hi Don John,
This is a great reminder. My curiousity matches that of my cat. I am never satisfied till I know the what, why, when and everything else about something, or someone.
Thanks for the information.
Thanks, Caroline, for sharing your thoughts. A curious mind is a good thing.
Take care, Don.