“I am a big advocate for the pursuit of curiosity. You’ve maybe heard me talk about this before? We are constantly being told to pursue our passions in life, but there are times when passion is a TALL ORDER, and really hard to reach. In seasons of confusion, of loss, of boredom, of insecurity, of distraction, the idea of “passion” can feel completely inaccessible and impossible. In such times, you are lucky to be able to get your laundry done (that sometimes feels as high as you can aim) and when someone tells you to follow your passion, you want to give them the middle finger. (Go ahead and do it, by the way. But wait till their back is turned, out of civility.)
But curiosity, I have found, is always within reach.
Passion is a tower of flame, but curiosity is a tiny tap on the shoulder — a little whisper in the ear that says, “Hey, that’s kind of interesting…”
Passion is rare; curiosity is everyday.
Curiosity is therefore a lot easier to reach at at times than full-on passion — and the stakes are lower, easier to manage.
The trick is to just follow your small moments of curiosity. It doesn’t take a massive effort. Just turn your head an inch. Pause for a instant. Respond to what has caught your attention. Look into it a bit. Is there something there for you? A piece of information?
For me, a lifetime devoted to creativity is nothing but a scavenger hunt — where each successive clue is another tiny little hit of curiosity. Pick each one up, unfold it, see where it leads you next.
Keep doing that, and I promise you: The curiosity will eventually lead you to the passion.”
–Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic
I was recently listening to an interview on On Being with Elizabeth Gilbert and this idea of passion versus curiosity came up. I LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVED it. Curiosity is process orientated, it keeps you present in such a conscious way where passion takes over the experience. I think of when I have felt passion, either when watching performance art, eating delicious food, being intimate with my lover…the world as I know it falls away and all that is left is what I’m focusing on. Now, I’m not against passion but as Gilbert said so eloquently, it can be a tall order. When passion arises, I allow it to take over however I try not to seek it. As we have learned on the spiritual path, seeking passion or any very strong emotion creates suffering in some way shape or form if it is not attained or maintained.
A more manageable quest is can I stay curious about life, love, the practice, myself? This is a way for me to stay engaged in the world versus being complacent or at the mercy of the situation.
A few definitions of curious: eager to learn or know, inquisitive.
I was listening to an interview with Ta-Nehisi Coates recently and he said something that struck me. He said “Be clear about what you know and what you don’t know”. To add to that, then go seeking what you want to know. The idea that the process of learning/seeking is a scavenger hunt resonated with me, that you have to stay engaged throughout the whole process. Read the clues, connect the dots and move to the next clue.
By doing so, you’ll one day, as Rilke puts it simply, “you’ll live your way to the answers”.