Marvin Repinski: A word that keeps us going: Curiosity

Published 6:36 pm Friday, May 13, 2022

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If you don’t have it, don’t ask what it is. The mark of progress is curiosity. The definition of seeking is curiosity. The virtue of finding the promise you seek is curiosity. Please consider it the gift, the attribute you have. You do have it as a fact: You read the Austin Daily Herald. For that, you are feeding this quality. For this you have moved from last week to the present day.

In a book that I am scanning on child care, what caught my eye were several paragraphs on “Ear Pulling.” What, you say? Yes, a parent asks about a baby tugging at her ear. The author reminds the parent that “babies have a lot of territory to conquer  — some of it on their own bodies.” A list is supplied  — body parts  — and reminds one: “The ears will be subjects of exploration at one time or another. Unless your baby’s pulling and tugging at her ear is also accompanied by crying or signs of illness, it’s likely that it is only a manifestation of her curiosity.”

There you have it! From childhood on, we may all be possessed by this unfulfilled (hopefully) trait, curiosity. And what will we do with it? What manner of encouragement will this marvelous virtue receive from us? What are ways or examples of noting others who always seem to be growing? How will we embrace this many-sided capacity to help us become the kind of person who is always seeking more, expanding horizons? A few suggestions are in order:

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ONE: Developing a new life. Out of the scraps and what may be called rags, is to give birth to a song “Coat of Many Colors” by Dolly Parton. Her mother patched a box of scrap material together to make a coat. Dolly, raised in a home where Bible stories were told, recalls her mother telling a story of Joseph and his coat of many colors (found in Genesis 37:3). Her parents, recalled this amazing entertainer, told her of her birth in the brink of World War II, during the time known as the Great Depression. Out of curiosity, Dolly picked the most colorful pieces of stray materials out of the container, that held what you never threw away! Out of these, the girl who became a beloved singer would say, “I felt rich when Mom mended shirts with elbow patches.” Keep Mother’s Day, the celebration just past, an every day process.

TWO: A teacher said: “My students seem to fall asleep in class.” Curiosity is certainly missing. Maybe the methods, the approach in classroom behaviors can be addressed. For instance, some of the ideas or practices of the Montessori Schools could be applied. Not imitation or outright borrowing, but curiosity abounds in these classes. One teacher wrote: “Our school focuses on children as individuals, not chairs, and enables them to manage their own study independently. We may be drawn to a student who indicates a giftedness in specific areas. They may receive particular encouragement in those areas.”

THREE: When asked a question with clear-eyed curiosity, what a person can do, an example may be in order. We don’t have to replicate or do the same thing others do in their fulfillment, but examples will pave a road to goals.

Very large, but telling, a story of commitment is as follows: Hidden Villa is a 1,600 acre farm and wilderness preserve in Los Altos, California. (This reminds one of the Hormel Nature Center in Mower County.) To foster environmental interest, the stewardship of property and places is used for community outreach; hikes and scenic views and spaces for meetings  —- the Duveneds family donated this Los Altos property for public use. A big gift, but can it not compel us to say: “Our town has curious children. What can I do to expand that quality?”

FOUR: The “great comeback” as an insight into the beauty of surprise. Who could have thought that in betting on a horse with very little public support (Rich Strike), running in the Kentucky Derby last Saturday, would have outrun even St. Cloud’s entry (Zandon) that placed third?

In reading of the inventions of Thomas Edison, we note that his curiosity survived any taunts that came his way. Hundreds of “failed” light bulbs were not the end of his story. It need not be the end of some of our stories.

Children, by and large, ask questions. Can we equal that curiosity? For instance, questions lead to improvement when they are answered, of course, and cause less anxiety and more good feelings. How do parents respond when asked “where did I come from? Where is God? What is my older sister talking about when she lowers her voice and mentions sex?”

When will our quest to know more cause us to rethink some ideas and enjoy new sights? In the novel “Daisy Miller” by Henry James, a few lines stood out. They reminded me, I must always be attentive. “At the Trois Couronnes,” she noted “neat German waiters, who look like secretaries of Legation, Russian princesses sitting in the garden, little Polish boys walking about, held by the hand, with their governess, the picturesque towers of the Castle of Chillon.” A footnote adds that this castle is the setting of Byron’s romantic poem, “The Prisoner of Chillon.”

A promise that we may apply to our own lives  — the path to be anticipating, looking for the surprises.