I’ve always been a curious person, “You’re so curious,” my dad would say when I was a kid. And I came to see curiosity as an asset. Curiosity leads to searching, to learning, to growing, maybe even to wisdom; But can a person be too curious?
Lately I notice that I’m consumed daily by a desire to know more—and yes some of that is driven by this crisis we’re in but it’s also just a need to read articles, to look up facts, to confirm something that might come up in conversation—“Oh, yeah,” I’ll say, reaching for my phone, “I was wondering that.” And I’ll dive into a mini research hole.
I don’t use my cookbooks anymore, I just enter a handful of ingredients in the search bar and ask what I can make with it. I even read on my phone—the app for Bobby’s and my shared library is on my phone. This is not a rant against phones—I am interested in education, in how we learn things these days. And how we become educated. Who was it that said education is what is left after you’ve forgotten everything you learned? I’ll have to look that up.
I wish I were more disciplined—I don’t keep a journal, I don’t write letters. I have often thought it would be cool to keep a list of every movie I’ve ever seen, wouldn’t that be an interesting way to tell a life story? Or every book? Partly this is because I have poor retention. I can’t remember things I’ve read very recently. Or movies I’ve seen not that long ago. Something about the voraciousness with which I consume things.
What I’d really love is to make a list at the end of everyday about all the things I learned that day. A journal can give you some of that but that’s more of a record of what you’ve learned over time, emotionally, spiritually, about being a human. What I’m taking about is the minutiae of each day.
Just off the top of my head, here are a few things I’ve learned in the past few days: the word sagittal, referring to the seam at the top of our skulls, which divides the two halves of our brain. I’ve learned some of the early history of Mary Queen of Scotts. I’ve learned that I spend way too much money on $5 coffees.
What prompted the word education was when Julie Rowland reached out after Friday’s live show and asked if I was open to some suggestions about the breathing we do here. “Oh god,” I thought, “I can’t even breathe correctly!” And then I thought, “Oh, Chris, settle down, I know you don’t like to told how to do things but this is Julie and you love her and maybe this moment is about learning to be teachable.”
Part of my voracious curiosity leads me to think I know everything. I don’t mean in an arrogant way, not like a know-it-all, ok maybe a little bit like that.
The spirit of the beginner is beautiful, a beginner is vulnerable, alive to possibility. Some of us adopt that all-knowing approach to life as a survival mechanism, my knowledge is so great and far reaching that nothing will ever jump out at me in the dark, nothing unforeseen will happen to me, which of course is not true. Another great word: delusion.
Julie and I set a time to speak she was great, reminded me of some things I had forgotten about the diaphragm and the three-part breath. And I realized it wouldn’t hurt me to learn from someone, to say thank you, to take instruction. I am safe enough to begin.
Here’s something I learned just this morning, someone I know in New York City has now lost 5 friends to the virus. One thing we learn in life is loss. And we learn the distance between those who are fighting for their lives and those who are stuck at home, trying to stave off boredom.
I’d like to learn French while on quarantine. I took French in high school and then went to school for a year in Switzerland where I was supposed to become fluent. Didn’t happen I’d also love to learn Italian, for that trip Bobby and I are always talking about taking to Italy and Greece.
But, really, am I going to do that, listen to foreign language lessons right now? My brain is electric, the world is abuzz, if I have a hard time retaining a book, how am I going to ever remember a bunch of foreign verbs?
The best learning for me right now is to seek calm, to pay attention, not to the outside world so much, but to really look at my day, how the light changes, determine what do I need to take care of myself right now, honor those who are lost and struggling, maybe even acquire a modicum of grace.
Education comes from educe, to bring out or develop—I’d like to develop my capacity to be human.