[Note from Jonathan: This is a guest post written by Jeremy Bennett.]
1. the desire to learn or know about anything; inquisitiveness.
Curiosity is over-valued in our society, and one of the top causes of distraction in our increasingly information-saturated world.
Mind you, I’m not completely opposed to curiosity. Children are curious about the world, and that’s usually a good thing! Indeed. What I am proposing, however, is a proper understanding of curiosity; what it is useful for, and some things that it is not useful for.
We are, in fact, multi-dimensional beings. This has been my experience. We have a physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual aspect to ourselves, and so on.
Curiosity comes from, and largely works within the level of the mind. It is a desire to learn new information — to help create a framework, or frame of reference — that our minds can use, to make sense of the world we find ourselves in.
This can be very helpful, especially when one is studying a new domain of knowledge, like a child learning about the basics of life in the physical world. For example how gravity works, the fact that even if someone face disappears behind their hands (in the case of peekaboo) they will look to see if they’re still there …Surprise!
Where curiosity can be not-so-helpful, is that of being curious… about irrelevant information, that can serve as more of a distraction to your task at hand. That doesn’t mean that the curiosity, or the object of it is bad per se. it just means that perhaps it’s not the most appropriate time to view (and think about) a certain topic, item or information. In my case, I enjoy practically anything about traditional Japanese hobbies, works of art, and martial arts. Even so, it not the most useful use of my time to pore over the latest model of this uniform, or that tea set, or … (you get the idea)
So instead of curiosity, try wonderment!
1. the state of being in wonder
2. to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe; marvel
While curiosity exists at the level of mind, being in a state of wonderment, enables you to “see” and be receptive to the mysteries of the universe. This is what you may feel looking up at the sky in a moonless night, away from the city, with millions of sparkling stars and the milky way, stretched gracefully across the center… or the amazement of looking at a delicate buttercup, perched on a tuft of moss, on the side of a trail… It is that openness to the divine mystery, both the visible, and unseen, what is spoken, and the silence behind it all.
We are moving to a time in our planetary evolution where the distinctions between dimensions are blurring. This process could also be described as Heaven, coming to Earth. ; )
No Time to Wonder…
Another interesting aspect of curiosity; is that it usually pulls the attention of our mind out of the present, and into the future, or the past “I’m curious what’s around the corner…” “I wonder what would have happened if…” our mind can weave an alternate future, a fantasy of it’s own choosing.
When this happens, we can tend to overlook what is happening, right now, because we’re so excited about what will happen… next! From an energetic standpoint, you may find that the energy of curiosity, has an outward, explosive, expression to it. This can be well and good, especially if the goal is increasing knowledge, or it’s framework, as mentioned above.
Wonder, on the other hand, gives us the experience of having all of our senses completely in the present. It is very difficult if not impossible to truly be in a state of wonder, and be thinking of something else. Wonder is immersive, and allows us to surf the crest of the wave of experiencing the present moment. You may notice, that when you are in a state of wonder, that you are in a receptive mode – as if the energy of your attention is like that of a bowl, willing and receptive to experience whatever the present moment offers you.
While building “a bigger (mental) framework” can assist, at this stage of our human evolution, it will not be the most helpful to us. As we tune into the other multidimensional aspects of ourselves, it allows us to access our intuition, and our inspiration, to flow through us. These are not aspects and faculties of the mind, but of our higher selves.
…Except in the Present
When we experience wonderment, and it’s close counterpart, appreciation, we allow ourselves to be open to the goodness in our lives, and the abundance we have yet to fully comprehend. Being in a state of wonderment, can then truly be a multi-dimensional experience.
As each of us do this, we invite the wonder, marvel, and beauty of the divine in every moment that we choose. That said, I invite you to sell your curiosity, and purchase wonderment.
About the author: Jeremy Bennett is a Soul Realignment Practitioner, and helps healers and innovators know who they truly are (and find their purpose)t, to fulfill their unique role with joy and service to the planet.
So instead of curiosity, try wonderment!
Reminds me of James Arthur Ray’s “balance is bogus” and emphasis on harmony. This kind of reframing is lame in my opinion.
I prefer instead to go to the root of a word, usually etymologically, to find renewed understanding and insight. (Of course there is less rhetorical power in using words other people understand.)
Interesting. I like the idea of curiosity/future
and wandering for the present
we just have to find the right balance which just pushes us forward
As a huge proponent of curiosity, I think you misrepresent it here.
Curiosity is a desire to learn.
Wonder is a state of awe.
However, the notion that curiosity is a distraction from the present is wholly misrepresentative of what it means to be curious.
The example chosen: “I’m curious what the future holds.” could just as easily be replaced with “I wonder what the future holds”, an example you use. However, you seem to give wonder an exemption from your own statement.
Also, if I am to agree with the statement that we are multi-dimensional beings (which I’m not inclined to say), you again give primacy to the spiritual. And perhaps miss the point that wonder and curiosity are just as much, if not more so, states of being (physical, mental, spiritual and emotional) than only states of mind.
And to address the first point, curiosity is not at fault for distraction, multitasking paradigms, lack of mindfulness, persistence, discipline and sound-bite-culture are all perhaps more to blame for the flightiness of people.
Real curiosity is a rare commodity, people may say they are curious or inquisitive but it is rare they have any follow through or habit of actual curiosity. Not at all over-valued.
@ Duff & Carl: I think Jeremy’s point was to bring awareness to the fact that too much curiosity pulls us outside of what we would most like to focus on, and receive fulfillment from focusing on.
Perhaps a better choice of semantics could have been used to illustrate the point. But I think the heart of embracing awe for the present and moving away from that which pulls you out of that state (whether it’s curiosity or something else) is a worthwhile pursuit.
Tomas Stonkus says
Can’t say I entirely agree, but I do understand where you coming from. From the way you describe curiosity and wonder, I see why you come to the conclusions that you do.
Yet, it is just a matter of semantics. Labeling things, from my own experience, is pretty pointless. Each of us has our own tweaked interpretation of any given concept. That is why communication of ideas can be so difficult sometimes.
What is more important is the underlying emotion or feeling. It is the experience what matters, not what we call it. If we were to give a rose a different name, would it stop being a rose?
@Jonathan – too much of anything in a scattered fashion, even awe can pull you out of fulfillment. Curiosity can lead deeper into fulfillment.
Semantics are important, especially when you’re talking about issues like this which are attempting to aim beyond a trivial discourse.
However, I’m still not sold on the premise that a sort of spiritual awe should override others aspects, or dimensions in Bennett’s word, of a persons being.
I like the way this article uses such an example to illustrate what happens if we are curious about too many things and don’t focus on any one thing deeply enough to get results.
Even though I like being curious, I’ve had to learn to narrow my objects of curiosity to get ahead in my personal projects. So, I totally get where you are coming from – great guest post.
Richard | RichardShelmerdine.com says
Exactly! Curiosity should be selective and being in the moment in a state of awe and wonder is a beautiful and natural way to live.
B @ logos coaching says
interesting view Jonathan but I also like the comment by Tomas.
Cath Duncan says
Jeremy, it might just be a matter of semantics, but I’m afraid I don’t get it. You seem to have added your own interpretation of what curiosity is, and your description of curiosity seems inconsistent within this article, so it doesn’t really make sense to me what you’re saying. And I’m trying to work out why it would be useful to interpret the term “curiosity” the way you’ve done (a state of mind that distracts us from the present, causes us to lose touch with experiencing reality as it is, causes us to miss out on the “wonderment” of the “mysteries” of life and so on, and causes us to “get distracted from the task at hand.”)
In the beginning you say that curiosity is: “… like a child learning about the basics of life in the physical world. For example how gravity works, the fact that even if someone’s face disappears behind their hands (in the case of peekaboo) they will look to see if they’re still there …”
and then you complain that curiosity is distracting us from being present: “…Another interesting aspect of curiosity; is that it usually pulls the attention of our mind out of the present, and into the future, or the past…”
When children are learning object permanence (when they’re figuring out whether an object still exists when it’s out of sight), at about 9 months of age, as far as I’m understand, they’re a perfect example of being fully present and experiencing reality rather than getting caught up in stories about the past and future. And they’re certainly not coming from a fear-based desire to collect more information for the sake of collecting more information (which is what I’m guessing might be one of the things you’re cautioning us about). They’re just fully present, taking in as much as they can, responding to what’s in front of them right now.
It’s much easier for us to experience reality as it actually is before we become verbal. Once we’re verbal, we do the story-fondling that gets us stuck in the past of the future. Pre-verbal babies don’t need therapy because they’ve not done any story-fondling and they haven’t yet learned what reality “should” be, so they’re much more about just responding to what reality is. Either curiosity is like the fully-present learning state of a 9-month old baby, or it gets in the way of us being present. I don’t see how it can be both. My definition of curiosity is the former – that’s it’s like that child-like open-minded, non-judgmental state. And I think this is a very useful state for learning new things – especially for learning experientially.
Personally, I don’t see how curiosity gets in the way of me being present and enjoying what’s here right now. For me, an attitude of curiosity is one of the gateways to being present to reality, rather than an obstruction to it.
What’s more likely to get in the way of me being present and experiencing reality as it is is when I tell myself stories and make judgments about what I “should” be spending my time doing, what is relevant and “irrelevant” information, and how I “should” be focusing on a “task at hand” instead. (You say, “Where curiosity can be not-so-helpful, is that of being curious… about irrelevant information, that can serve as more of a distraction to your task at hand… perhaps it’s not the most appropriate time to view (and think about) a certain topic, item or information… it’s not the most useful use of my time to pore over the latest model of this uniform, or that tea set…”)
I don’t see how curiosity causes us to focus on “irrelevant” information and get distracted from the “task at hand.” Reading this, I get the sense that there are things you’re naturally curious about and have a natural sense of wonderment when you pursue them (like the uniforms, tea sets, etc) but you’ve made some decisions that these aren’t worthy of your attention because they “distract you from the task at hand” (obviously something you have less natural curiosity/ motivation/ wonderment for, or else you’d naturally be drawn to that task). And that certain things (like moonlight and buttercups) are worthy of attention, exploration, curiosity and wonderment. Why is gazing at the moonlight or buttercups not irrelevant and “distracting from the task at hand” but you think that poring over a tea set is “not the most useful use of your time.” What prevents you from experiencing “wonderment” over a tea set or a new uniform when you can experience wonderment over the buttercups and moonlight?
I’m totally up with having projects you want to complete/ something you want to create in the world, so understand the concern you express about getting “distracted from the task at hand.” But my sense is that curiosity isn’t the baddie. When we’re lacking focus and struggling to remain “with the task at hand,” it’s usually one of two reasons:
1.) either the task at hand isn’t *really* important to us – it’s something we think we “should” do because it’s considered a more worthy cause in our tribe than the thing we’d *really* love to do. Getting a sense of wonderment out of pursuing something that isn’t a natural curiosity is hard work. On the other hand, when you’re doing something you love doing, the wonderment feeling tends to visit often.
2.) fear/ internal resistance is getting in the way. By being distracted by other stuff you can protect yourself from all the potential excitement and disappointments that come with doing and being what’s really important to you. This is a normal part of the creation process. Love the fear and keeping doing what you feel naturally curious about anyway.
All the best, and feel free to respond and tell me where I’m wrong :)
Craig Thomas says
Even though curiosity can be a huge distraction I always value ideas I achieve when in curiosity mode. I also find curiosity a very attractive quality in a woman. Overall, I don’t agree particularly but I understand your point.
I guess you can tell from my (comment) name that I value the experience of joy. I can also confirm that distraction is a major way of for your own mind to sabotage your endeavours. But ‘discovery’ is the other part of my name…
Many people have a key passion. A single fundamental driver. For some people this may be ‘intimacy’ (moments of deep connection with others). (see https://goodlifezen.com/2009/01/26/what-is-the-one-thing-in-your-life/) For others this may be ‘service’. And for some it is ‘curiosity’.
Now if you are not driven by curiosity you may well value other passions more highly – but to those (like me) who must find out stuff to satisfy our yearnings, the idea of wonderment and awe being sufficient as a ‘multidimensional experience’ fails to convince.
It may work well for Jeremy, good for him, but I notice that he didn’t point out the equally destructive dangers of too much wonderment and awe in a life.
Fantasia Lillith says
AS soon as you label anything you destroy it. Study Philosophy long enough and you know this to be true.
Basically what you are saying is live in the moment, don’t let the noise distract you and remember that … gratitude is key. In the end, curiosity, or wonderment … to me they are twins – to try and separate them leaves you missing more than just the other half.
Gianpaolo Pietri | The Optimalists says
When I first read the article, I found its premise intriguing. Although certain things struck me right away, I found it insightful and an interesting take on two of the most important elements that make us who we are (homo sapiens). Our ability to be curious, as well as to wonder, is one of the fundamental traits that separates us from our (let’s say) more primal neighbors.
Curiosity spurs ideas (like making a hammer out of a piece of stone). Ideas become innovation (the hammer helps build a shelter), and innovation leads to development of those ideas. This is what has lead to thousands of years of progress through technological advances over time.
But back to the post. I disagree that curiosity exists only in the mind. Curiosity has a great deal to do with perception. And our perception involves engagement of all the senses, not just sight.
We taste things, we listen to sounds, we smell aromas, and we touch our surroundings. When you come across a beautiful flower in a garden, you don’t just look at it and think about it. You approach it. You want to know what it smells like. You run fingers along one of its petals. You want to know what it feels like. These are all actions of the body, which affect your ability to perceive things. So am inclined to agree with Carl, when he says the following:
“And perhaps miss the point that wonder and curiosity are just as much, if not more so, states of being (physical, mental, spiritual and emotional) than only states of mind.”
That being said, I do think a ‘false’ sense of curiosity can be distracting and I have fallen victim to it myself, letting myself spend hours following links on sites that many times lead nowhere. Like you say, curiosity is great, when it is focused on the right things that take you where you want to go. But then that analysis contradicts what it is to be curious in the first place.
I like yourdescription of wonderment and its potential to unravel mysteries, and unlock universes. It is very exciting.
Marc Winitz says
I was curious about your post so I clicked on the snipped URL. I am reading the comments with wonderment :)
Interesting take on curiosity. I don’t particularly find anything wrong with unfocused curiosity. It can lead to great discoveries, especially if leads to something that benefits you personally.
I actually get where you’re coming from….I think. I’m interpreting it like this:
Curiosity in and of itself is not a bad thing and I don’t think you’re stating that at all. I’m not even sure if being overly curious is a bad thing. What you might be getting at in an indirect way is that more and more we are getting distracted. In my opinion, this is largely a result of the increased amount of information that is pushed at us on a daily basis (e-mails, Twitter, blogs, etc.). It’s this certain level of information overload that can get us off track. Also, it’s the constant search for answers outside of ourselves that can cause problems.
What we need, and what you’re suggesting, is to get back to being in touch with who we are. We need to re-learn how to live in the present moment. To listen to our body and our intuition. The answer is already within us if we’re ready to listen.
Jeremy M. Bennett | Purpose Without Fail! says
First I want to say thank you so much for all your awesome comments! – I was suprised and overjoyed to see all the great thoughts and discussion that has come from it =)
@Carl – I totally agree with your definition, and that few have true curiousity. I have always been intense curious One of my housemates said about me ” Jeremy could find the inside of a wet paper bag interesting…” my response: “well, there is the fiber length…” ( I was being serious.. if you’re curious, look at the stages of paper recycling) ;) – and good catch about the “I wonder what the future holds” – I was wondering who’d catch it – you can read it both ways, with the energy of “wonder” or “curiousity” in which i wrote it:
This is what @Tomas Stonkus is talking about, the “feeling” or “energy” of a word, and he’s right on ;)
@DiscoveredJoys, great obervations! esp:
“It may work well for Jeremy, good for him, but I notice that he didn’t point out the equally destructive dangers of too much wonderment and awe in a life.”
– That’s a whole ‘nother article(s) – It all comes down to informed, inspired action, that causes the changes that you want to see on Earth ;)
@Gianpaolo Pietri | The Optimalists Great observations! I really appreciate bringing the body (sometimes I forget) into the equation. While I still sense that curiousity is in the mind
(show me someone catatonic that’s curious) you highlight well the role that the body has in the feedback loop of perception -> curiousity -> action -> perception. – That’s one of the things that our bodies do so well: give us feedback to work with, whether that is from our “outer environment” in the world, or our “inner environment” of what we are thinking and feeling within us.
@Cath Duncan: Thank you so much for your well considered and thought-out comment: Perhaps to clarify, curiousity is the seeking more information. If that’s in the case of the child, that can help them build a framework of understanding so they can understand the natural world. I was writing this from the perpective of the adult, where curiousity (having to do with information) is something that comes/arises from the rational mind (as opposed to being emotional, or from higher-level intuition) This of course doesn’t mean that someone may not be inspired to _be_ curious in a particular area with their mind. but that the mind (for an adult) is the thing that is “doing” the curiousity.
This brings us to curiousity for an infant. a number of sources I’ve read state that the full rational /mental/reasoning aspect of ourself (aka the mind) doesn’t come in until about 6-7.
My sense is that they have some mental aspect that they are using, to input information that they can use..
If they’re being in the present moment (which I could totally agree with) re: object permanence and not getting caught up in stories) then who knows;
Just because someone is using their mind or mental faculties doesn’t mean they’re _not_ in the present moment. As children I could definitely see this being the case. Many people, however, have trained (mostly unconsciousely) their mind to take them into either the past or the future, instead of being fully in the present. We all do it!
Re your definition of curiousity being like “curiosity is like the fully-present learning state of a 9-month old baby,” even as I read your words, It seems like the energetic feel of what i’ve described as “wonderment” this state of yin receptivity, rather than a more yang, outward sense of searching “curiousity” (mind you, I didn’t say that learning doesn’t take place during being in a state of wonder, it definitely can, and quite profoundly)
That being said, I don’t feel the need to “fit” your observations into a “mental taxonomy” that I’ve created – I myself am not wedded to my definitions; just as they are helpful to illuminate the truth behind the words ;)
“What prevents you from experiencing “wonderment” over a tea set or a new uniform” – Nothing! – my idea there was to recognize my interest/curiousity about something, while (perhaps) to set aside sometime where I could fully enjoy the thing that was distracting me) _and_be able to focus on the task at hand. – (I didnt’ mention it in the article, but seems to be good to do so here)
Lastly, I totally resonate with your two reasons about distraction; those can (and have for me) been huge reasons for distraction. the “dangers” of being _too_ focussed on something you’re passionate about – well, that’d be another good article ;)
@Nate @ @curiousjessica @duff @j-e
awesome comments and thoughts – thank you so much for your feedback.
TY again Jonathan ; )
Albeit a long comment, I would love to hear all your thoughts on the above; this is hugely helpful for me to get feedback and dialog from some amazing, thoughtful,creative people!!!
Are we ever going to beat curiosity? or is curiosity going to beat us?
Ethan M says
It seems the drawbacks of curiosity may be goal-specific. Perhaps Isaac Newton may not have completed his Principia Mathematica in as timely a manner if he had been so curious (or distracted?) by music, painting, or botany – to take a few years away from mathematics. Here’s a test: can you read an article online to its finish without branching to a different topic found within that article? Or do you find yourself several hyperlinks or Google searches away from the original text after fifteen minutes. I struggle with this.
Surplus curiosity leads to immoderate distraction, that deprives conscious of its agility of being focused.