Billy was always an adventurous little fella. As a toddler, he would open every cabin, lick whatever was within his reach and was highly fascinated by everything that happened in nature. In kindergarten, he was always the one taking the lead. Billy would make up fun games and be extremely curious about everything the teacher said. Billy wanted to figure out life by himself and was off to a head start.
Fast forward a couple of years. Billy is now ten years old, sits in the back of the class and the spark that was always in his eyes faded. Simply put, Billy didn’t care anymore. He didn’t care anymore because he heard “because I said so” one too many times. He didn’t care anymore because he was told again and again not to be so annoying, to keep his nose out of other people’s business. He was told again and again that older people are always right, no matter what.
At the tender age of 10, Billy was a broken boy. He ultimately lost touch with his curious edge and just gave up. They say to get to the core of something you have to ask “why?” three times. Little ol’ Billy used to be a master at this, but now he didn’t even bother to ask it just once. He just accepted whatever was told to him. He wasn’t even sure if he agreed but was so numb down that he just became an obedient little fucker. He had been such a pain in the ass in his younger years, but he finally saw reason. He said “yes mam, no mam,” never questioned anything, and had decent grades in school. Billy turned out to be a good boy.
But, if you would look deep in Billy’s eyes, you would see something is wrong. Everything that made Billy Billy was gone. He loved everything that had to do with dinosaurs and could completely lose himself in drawing. Strangely, he hadn’t touched his dinosaur collection and favorite pencils for months, but he probably outgrew them, right? Who cares anyway. All that matters is that Billy isn’t a pain in the ass anymore and does well in school.
But, young Billy didn’t see the light, didn’t realize he was a pain in everyone’s ass and didn’t outgrow his toys. What happened is Billy gave up. The pressure of the mold school and society were pushing him in just became too much. Billy was tired of fighting for his autonomy, and he just cracked. At the young age of only ten, Billy was broken, defeated, and lost. Since he was only ten, he had no idea this had been happening to him and he probably never will, with the mold of school fitting perfect and all. It’s safe to say the world has lost yet another curious soul. Poor fucking Billy.
A nation of unadventurous adults
School teaches us to be poor. Poor in every aspect of life. Because school wasn’t meant to build curious and autonomous people. School is always intended to create obedient workers. So, what do you do to achieve that? You kill curiosity, teach kids to sit still and to accept everything the teacher says because she said so. School teaches you that failure is wrong and that you shouldn’t even try to put your pencil outside the lines. School goes above and beyond to make you just the same as everyone else.
School doesn’t teach you how to think, it teaches what to ‘think’.
As little kids, we were all curious and eager to find out how things work and more importantly why. As a parent, I’m the first one to admit that it’s tempting to answer “because I said so” whenever my daughter is on a quest to get as many “why’s” answered as possible. But, I don’t want her to end up like Billy. Curiosity is an adventure; it’s a discovery. Just imagine how cool it would be to be a young Indiana Jones learning new things every single day. ‘Imagine’ isn’t the right word here; it should be ‘remember’. However, chances are you can’t, because your inner Indiana has died so long ago, you can’t even recall if he was ever alive.
If you look around you, the effects of killing curiosity are very visible. 30-year-olds are looking like they died 20 years ago. There’s no life in them anymore, and they just follow and believe everything that the authorities tell them. They never second guess anything. We’ve become brains in service of the media outlets we follow and end up a polarized society because depending on the outlets you follow, you get different programming.
When people with another point of view present their vision, we become mad, start screaming and demonize the other person. Just look at religion and politics throughout history.
We don’t start screaming and fighting because we are right. We start screaming and fighting because we don’t want the other’s vision interfering with our status quo. “What if the other is right?” “What if I’ve done things wrong this whole time?” The impact would be so big; it’s just easier to fight and demonize.
Curiosity has made place for laziness. We have become so lazy; we let other people think for us. We just sit and let ‘what to think’ be poured into our minds. We became people who never learned fire is hot, but who are told it is. When we don’t know how to respond, we look around for someone telling us what to think. It’s a dogmatic approach, and it kills innovation. We see things through one lens, but that might be all wrong, but you won’t find out, because you’re not curious.
In adult life, the curiosity factor has been completely wiped out. All our days are planned to perfection and for most every new day is almost a copy of the days before. When uncertainty shows up on our doorstep, we panic and find something that’s known only because we forgot that curiosity is what makes life worth living.
Creativity and consuming
We’re a bunch of consuming people, especially in the West. Money makes the world go round, and we use that money to buy a shitload of things. Feeling a bit depressed? Just go on a shopping spree. Got your bonus? Get that 55-inch tv to replace that 42-inch one. Friday night? Let’s get wasted. Back home from work? Turn on that 55-inch tv and feed your brain bullshit.
We consume to fill that emptiness inside. That emptiness that arose when our curiosity left our body. We take, take, take, to keep the mind occupied. We need to keep the mind busy because when things go silent, the soul speaks. We consume so much it becomes an illness. Illness of the body, of the mind, and the soul. We feed our consuming monster until it’s a 600-pound body, incapable of doing anything else but eat. But, even at 600 pounds, the emptiness inside is still there.
The soul doesn’t care about consuming; it cares about nourishing. Nourishing the mind, body, and soul. And to do that it needs us to be creative. And to be creative, we have to be curious. We have to be curious to open our mind. By being curious our inner dialogue changes. “I can’t do this” becomes “how can I do this?’. When we are curious and faced with someone else’s vision of life, we won’t be mad. We open our mind and seek truth in whatever vision is offered to us. We stop listening to respond; we start listening to understand. Maybe it works, maybe it doesn’t, it doesn’t matter. What matters is we are open to new ideas which lead to new adventures. We are open to ideas that spark our curiosity, and that makes life worth living.
By being open-minded and curious, we enter a new dimension. A dimension in which everything is possible. Life becomes a journey, and you’re never sure what’s behind the door or around the corner, but it’s fascinating. We experience new things constantly and when you experience something you can claim it as your own. Just the thought of the endless possibilities of an open mind is fascinating.
You can tell a child that fire is hot, protect it from every little ‘danger’ in the world, but the concept of hot will only sink in if you have the experience of actually burning your fingers. Sure, it hurts for a couple of days, but it’s a lesson learned for life.
A fixed mindset, living life based on dogma is ridiculous. Everything is constantly changing into the next form. What works today won’t work in the future. Curiosity and creativity form the foundation to get ahead in life.
Remembering your curious self
People travel to far away places to find themselves. They set out on an adventure fueled by emptiness. They feel like something is missing and want to find it back. That’s a good thing because they sense there is still a seed of curiosity left that can be saved inside. However, you won’t find yourself in some village in India or the mountains of Tibet. Your curious self is already with you, within. And so, many people return from their adventure still completely unaware of where to find their true self. Sometimes they even return more lost than ever.
Some people do return in the company of their long lost self. Not because it was hidden in the mountains, but because they did things that nourished their curiosity. They started doing things again they also did as young rebels, when they were still relatively clear from dogma and conditioning.
So, to come closer to ourselves, we have to unlearn what we have learned. We think that to get ahead we have to learn more, but when you want to get closer to yourself, you need to unlearn all the crap that took you away from your true self and start doing things you were passionate about as a kid.
Get curious and get actionable. Ideas are worthless — the gold hides in execution. Too many people feel there’s something off, but are too scared to make the jump. “What if things don’t pan out?” “What am I complaining about, after all, life is just fine?” Sure, things might change, you might find out you were wrong about a lot of stuff and have been living a lie. But, the price is just too valuable: your true self. Don’t worry about the change that is at hand. 99% of things can always be undone. The best decision is the right decision. The second best decision is the wrong decision, the worst is no decision.
Do things to water the dried out seed of your curiosity. Set things in motion. Completely lose yourself into something you love. Be open-minded. Be learning forever, change up things, innovate, switch it up. Change your mindset of “I can’t” to “How can I?”. Curiosity is the force of prosperity. It’s the juice of innovation, the catalyst that makes life worth living. Curiosity is always the first step in any adventurous journey. Curiosity is the most important teacher.
So, what about Billy? Billy is doing just fine in society. He’s now 25 and works at a job he hates, but he’s ok with it. This is just life and Billy is sure there isn’t any juice left in the orange to squeeze out. He isn’t even aware of the orange, so it doesn’t matter anyway. Billy has his life planned out until the end, and it’s a boring story. He just keeps his head down, does what is expected of him, and doesn’t question anything. Billy became an obedient worker.
But! What if in his younger years Billy had kept his curiosity? What if instead of breaking him down, people would have lifted him? What if Billy recognized his curiosity as a gift and not a curse? What if instead of a consumer Billy became a creator? That’s a whole bunch of ‘what if’s’, but the most important one is this: What if you have been just like Billy and forgot about it? What will you do to remember good ol’ Billy?
This article is dedicated to my wife Claire. Don’t be like Billy.
Photo credit: Ryan McGuire