Happy New Year! (Although this post is certainly belated for new year’s greetings… oh well.) Since I last posted, I celebrated Silvester, ringing in the new year here at the Collegium Oecumenicum with a bang. New Year’s Eve is the big night for fireworks in Germany, and I had fun watching friends shoot rockets into our neighborhood skies from a safe distance while toasting with champagne the turn of the year. It was a cozy way to start off 2013.
|New Year’s Fondue|
The winter semester continues. After a couple weeks of down time during the holidays, it was good to get back into a routine. There are only a couple more weeks left until the long break between semesters (mid-February through mid-April). I can’t say it enough – time is really flying!
I spent a lot of time in the first week of 2013 reflecting on my experience so far in Germany and the months I have left here – how I want to spend my time, things I want to see and do and learn. The best New Year’s resolution I could come up with was to floss my teeth daily. (Yes, that is something I should have already been doing. Yes, I have already missed one day this year. Who out there really flosses every day though?)
I also came up with a less tangible resolution – to cultivate curiosity. Admittedly, I’m not sure if this is even possible. Some people seem to be born with a natural tendency to curiosity. I would say that I am, indeed, a person who likes trying new things, someone with questions, who finds adventure attractive. But, I am also a person who often neglects to busy herself in curious hunches, or who entertains questions in her head but ultimately leaves them unasked. The curiosity just doesn’t “burn” inside of me. I’d like to fan the flame a bit.
I think curious people tend to have more interesting conversations, to learn more about the people and the world around them, and to try more new things. Some of the people I know who really seem to have a zest for life, who are passionate, who always have interesting things to say – people I really like to be around – are those who I would deem “curious.”
These are people who ask good questions – those you’d never think to ask yourself. A friend of mine seems to have absolutely no fear to ask some of the most perceptive and direct questions. Her questions are disarming. They make me think about things in a new way and elicit equally honest responses. I admire good question asking, and I think it begins with good observation. Paying attention and voicing the questions in our minds seem to be a good starting place for stoking curiosity.
What gets in the away of good question asking? For me, preoccupation often does. I simply don’t pay close enough attention to my “present” to come upon a question worth asking in the moment. It can be easy to retreat into my own thoughts without curiously engaging in the world around me.
Worse than disengagement, though, fear can be a barrier to exercising my curiosity. I often leave good questions unasked in order to avoid asking an unwelcome one. Of course, asking questions can also make us feel clueless. What if I sound dumb? These fears are ultimately about what others think about us.
There’s also the risk that asking questions will lead us down a proverbial “rabbit hole” – to questions that can’t be answered or to answers we don’t like. Asking good questions takes courage to face the potential answers.
A quote is taped on the wall above my desk and it speaks to this zest-for-life-that-is-somehow-connected-to-curiousity-and-courage.
Anne Lamott writes about choosing to live our one short, precious life with
the willingness to not be good at things right away, to be clueless but committed; to make more messes and mistakes in the interest of living with spaciousness and a sense of presence; to find out who we truly are, who we were born to be, and to learn to love that screwed up, disappointing, heartbreakingly dear self of ours.
This is something I’ll keep pondering in 2013. Like I said, I don’t know if we can increase our curiousity, or if it is something we just have (or don’t). My hunch and hope is that we can practice it.
I’m curious… what do you think?