Curiosity is a hunger for more knowledge and experience. It is a longing for exploration and the fruits of that exploration; discovery.
But here’s the problem. It’s harder to stay hungry, to stay curious, now than it was a few hundred years ago.
For hunger to remain inflamed, it must go unfulfilled. That was easy when the world was big. When it took days and weeks to get from one place to the next. When it took a long time for news to travel and knowledge to circulate. The curious man could only take small nibbles of the food he most desired. His hunger for knowledge and understanding could only be fed bit by bit. So he remained curious and interested because that interest could never be fully satiated.
Fast forward to today. We have access to more information than we know what to do with. Smart people have taken intelligent topics and made them accessible to the layman. We have resources and tools which allow us to accelerate through the learning curve of any discipline or craft. In short, it’s hard to remain hungry because it’s so easy to overeat. It’s so easy to wonder and then find the solution to your wondering in it’s entirety.
Yet, in this age of informational overfeeding, some people do manage to remain hungry and curious and driven by the desire to know more and explore. Why? How?
The “how” of curiosity is simple: curiosity isn’t bound by the laws of biology. The human stomach has a finite capacity. We can only ingest so much. But the human mind? The human mind is a forever expanding stomach. It can take whatever you throw at it. And then some.
Another example: Have you ever heard of the Hydra? The Greek mythological monster which was slain by Hercules? It was said that cutting off one of the Hydra’s heads caused two more to grow back. The Hydra is kind of similar to curiosity. Attempts to diminish it result in it coming back stronger.
The “why” is a little more complex. Running with the food-stomach theme, I think we can create a dichotomy: some people want to be full, and some people want to keep eating.
The people who want to be full are easily satisfied in today’s world because the barriers to information and knowledge are collapsing. Their curiosity, when sparked, is easily put out.
The people who want to keep eating don’t care about being full. Their stomach is forever expanding. So the answers they find spawn more questions. And the things they know reveal to them the things they don’t.
Which category you fall into isn’t determined at birth. It isn’t inborn. It is the result of a choice. A decision. Either conscious or subconscious.
If you choose to be full, you impose a limit on yourself and your knowledge. You choose an arbitrary point and say that that point represents “enough.”
But if you choose to keep eating, you refuse to impose a limit. You see the ceiling of humanity and know that, no matter how hard you try, you can never crack your head on it. But it doesn’t stop you from trying…