In the Image: the importance of curiosity

Have you ever considered the quality of curiosity? Curiosity is something that pushes me to new places, and gives my life colour and meaning.

Curiosity can be experienced and lived in a number of ways. Curiosity can lead to roads being built, governments to be formed, and electric vehicles to become practical.

That’s not my experience of curiosity.

Decades ago, perhaps even a lifetime back, I found myself on a rural municipal council. I was warned that two other councillors were trouble makers who collaborated to have decisions go their way, and needed to be deflected in every decision, such as where gravel should be spread, or when new road graders should be purchased. That certainly twigged my curiosity. How did these fellows wield such control over council, how could they create such animosity?

Over the term or two that I served, I discovered that I had little passion or ability to offer to gravel and graders. But the human dimension fascinated me. As I observed the two “troublemakers,” I quickly decided that they were far beyond me in offering guidance and experience in the practical decision making of the RM council. And these fellows, far from being my opponents, became interesting, and taught me lessons because their life stories were unique.

I recall having lunch with one of these men. He had lost a child in an accident, a story that had a connection for me. I was moved by his passion and compassion as he retold that hard story, as he offered appreciation for some of the roles that included my faith community. It opened an appreciation for me of this fellow’s story telling ability, and for his fascinating view of the world. When I left that community, he was a friend.

Curiosity is, for me, a fire that creates warmth in new places, places that are at first glance too chilly to approach. In my life in ministry, when I sit in the presence of a person approaching death, curiosity is a large part of what I offer. If I ask honest and open questions about an approaching death, feeling questions, fear questions, regret questions, joy questions, I imagine the anxiety level coming down. The other person is reminded that these are indeed topics that can be approached, in fact it is important that they be approached, if the end is to be gentle and honest. I am always left with a feeling of honour and awe, who am I to be allowed into this holy place?

For me, curiosity isn’t a search for answers, for solutions. That’s why I haven’t built roads, or formed governments, or designed electric cars. In fact, questions that have answers are mostly boring for me. I have little to contribute to finding solutions. Eleven years into formal ministry I experienced burnout. In part, I suspect, it was connected to too many meetings, too much pressure I put on myself to find solutions. Farming, while reasonably successful, ended because the decision making required was not life giving, hopeful, energizing.

My version of curiosity doesn’t require answers. After I have sat with the questions for a period of time, they lose their intensity, and are replaced by new questions.  The awe and wonder never really recede.

I am an introverted and private person. Yet I need to be led by my curiosity into the complex lives of the folks around me. I need to have my values, my belief system challenged by folks who think very differently, whose value system is shaped by very different stories. I am invited into a world of richness and colour. I am invited into a reality where I can explore humility, and how that looks in my walk.

There are costs to this somewhat bizarre approach to reality. I attend very few meetings at this point. If my presence, which brings curiosity and hopefully encouragement along with an almost complete absence of practical wisdom, if that is not of value, please let me know and I’ll happily go home. I have limited ability to make strong financial decisions about my own portfolio, and give thanks for the presence of my partner and an astute financial planner.

Life continues to be good, even though I have few answers why.