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Death of a Curious Mind

Published on 03/01/09
by randy







Perhaps life’s greatest gift is that of curiosity.  It’s what drives us to deeper living.  It’s the food for taking the question to a new level, the main barrier to static, fixed belief systems.  In our youth, curiosity comes easy.  Life’s mystery is ever in front of us and we’re encouraged to learn the mystery.  At some point, we’re drawn to notions of ‘answers’, of what’s correct and what’s not correct.  Certainly, there are basic laws of the universe that have proven consistent throughout the ages.  Yet, a strong education has us continuously challenging their congruity through daily practice.


My great curiosity deals with how we’re drawn to unite and separate.  Spiritual tradition and contemporary science have shown conclusively how we’re all connected.  Curious minds seek to explore common ground for deeper meaning.  This leads to increased sense of interconnection and peace.  Minds closed to drilling deeper focus upon persuasion to belief systems encased in fixed notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’.  Curious minds drive from love and inter Being.  Minds dead to curiosity drive from fear and the pull to separate.


The courage to continually dig deeper is the core meaning of theological exploration and scientific discovery.  As soon as our curiosity diminishes with notions of an answer we somehow have diminished the vast expanse of the great mystery, the Divine.  We must examine what ‘faith’ means to us.  Are we carried through our day in courageous faith to the unknown, the mystery; or are we carried by a fixed belief system handed down from another who we’ve given authority over us? 


As a child in the 1950’s, I was raised in a culture putting strong emphasis on the correctness of parent, teacher, preacher, and government.  As a teen, a wonderful Lutheran college challenged me to go deeper in my curiosity about the Divine, a dishonest president moved us to always question authority, and my parents allowed a deeper dialog about our transformative times.  From 1968 to 1971 change was happening at an accelerated pace.  No matter how fixed people were to notions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, it was almost impossible to kill curiosity about what was happening.  Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated.  Racial tension was burning up our cities.  Vietnam was robbing us of our youth.  Our government was lying about our military purpose, killing our protestors, and moving more and more to a police state.  In 1968 Nixon won the election promoting the notion that he was looking out for the ‘non-dissenters’, the ‘non-questioners’, for those dead in their curiosity about what was going on.  Yet, in this period from 1968-1971, so many who voted for him began to ask questions.  As a twenty-one year old college student I experienced the burning of our college administration building and was blamed for the incident since we were near the building when it was set ablaze.  We worked a water brigade to put the fire out, but were still accused.  The questions were deep and the local community opened their doors.  They allowed their curiosity to awaken.  We allowed their questions, without need to change them.  True dialog happened and this was one of the richest moments of my American experience.


Brother David Steindl Rast has poignantly described the deep respect we owe to the words we speak.  He suggests that before we speak we examine what we really mean, that we only speak from first experience, and finally, that we ask the question, “So what?”  This abruptly takes us from the destructive position of ‘knowing’ and need to persuade.  We’re speaking strictly from our territory of experience, holding back on trying to impose our map on another.  This is what we did in 1971 when we entered homes.  We allowed others to speak their truth of direct experience and were then invited from their curiosity to speak ours.  We weren’t allowed to speak second and third hand information.  We were invited to dig deeper for common ground, eventually finding our unity in the human experience.


Curiosity, it’s perhaps life’s greatest gift and challenge.  When facing our dukka, our feeling of restlessness or ‘unsatisfactoriness’, we have the choice of drilling deeper, medicating and numbing ourselves, or stopping our curiosity with blind faith from another’s authority.  It seems the most precious ingredient to successful living, family, community, nation and planet is curiosity.  Curiosity about common sense and the common good seems to work best.  It’s an American right to be curious, to respectfully question authority.  We’re now seeing our very survival as a nation depends upon asking these deeper questions.  Whether as citizen, journalist, educator or theologian, without curiosity, with fixation on special interests and class, age, racial and religious division, we run a perilous journey similar to that of cancer cells within the body.  Curiosity, a deeper listening for deeper understanding, tolerance and patience, all driven from love and felt sense of unity…this is where healing comes from.


It’s early 2009 and I have that same felt sense of accelerating change.  We’ve smashed some barriers to the curious mind, electing a president of multi race background, seriously considering a woman for president, and accepting a senior candidate.  The world applauded America’s curiosity.  Perhaps the biggest challenge will be to challenge our capacity to religious tolerance and curiosity.  Our survival and success will depend upon our capacity to practice curiosity and willingness to peacefully step into the land of “I don’t know”.  When the curious mind is allowed to move to the uniting heart we move to a new dimension that acknowledges our interconnection.  When we can explore the fundamentalist mind, it’s willingness to execute violent acts in the name of ‘belief’, surrender our need to claim ‘correctness’, we just may find the courage to ask, “Is what we’re doing working?”  More importantly, we just may discover a larger stewardship to those who follow us as we ask, “Is what we’re doing working to create a more peaceful planet for our children, their children and the children to follow?”  Curiosity leads to broader questions, forever leading us to an appreciation in the ‘gift of the given’.  Curiosity and gratitude for what is open the door for more abundance.  Our fixed beliefs, a strong notion of ‘knowingness’, and our restlessness running amuck will lead to our demise.

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