The second of Todd Henry’s Everyday Acts of Bravery: Be Fiercely Curious.
Curiosity is an aspect of courage I haven’t addressed here before, but it’s critical. Especially if we aspire to create art, seek truth, get people talking.
It’s the antithesis of dogma: rather than rejecting anything that doesn’t line up with our preconceived notions of truth and fact, fierce curiosity requires that we ask questions and seek truth, even when we don’t know what the answer will be. Even when we are afraid of what the answer might be.
Especially when we are afraid of what the answer might be.
If we only ask questions we think we know the answers to, we aren’t seeking truth–we are seeking to persuade.
If we fail to dig beneath the surface, we avoid the truth behind the answers we think we know. Knowing that someone gets sick when they drink dirty water is not the same as understanding why. Knowing that the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel is beautiful is not the same as understanding what Michelangelo went through to create it. Being able to list the elements that make a book, or a movie, or a web site, or a sculpture great is not the same as understanding how to create one.
And even understanding does not confer ability. Understanding the human form and renaissance clothing and the uses of color and oils and lighting doesn’t mean I can recreate the Mona Lisa. Understanding grammar and dialect and post-Civil War America and the psychology of boys doesn’t mean I can write Huckleberry Finn. Understanding germ theory doesn’t mean I can cure smallpox.
It took a lifetime of fierce curiosity, asking the questions no one else was asking, then asking more questions after everyone else would have stopped, that made those achievements possible. It took seeking experiences, investigating, digging, paying attention, noticing. It took thinking instead of merely receiving the diversions the world offered.
It took moving forward, failing, asking more questions, moving forward, failing again. And moving forward again, asking questions even though the answers were scary. Even though some people–maybe most people–didn’t want the answers, didn’t want anybody seeking the answers.
Sometimes failure isn’t about being wrong. Sometimes it’s about being right when others are afraid of the answer and are willing to stop us from seeking it. That’s where fierce curiosity and courage become most important.
This is how great things are accomplished. This is how we change the world.
It starts with being fiercely curious.