Caught the last half of Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday and now have the next book on my “TO READ” list. It is “A Curious Mind: The Secret of a Bigger Life” by Brian Grazer and Charles Fishman. Perhaps I am one of those people the advertisers just love—because, yes, sometimes I am influenced by what I see and hear on TV.
What I saw this morning was Oprah interviewing television and movie producer extraordinaire Brian Grazer (who has been nominated for 43 Academy Awards and 131 Emmys for a few things like the movies Splash and A Beautiful Mind). He was also named one of the hundred most influential people in the world in 2002 by Time magazine. But to me, his fame is secondary to what he had to say during the interview. Perhaps sometimes it takes great fame to make one humble. Brian came across as someone who sincerely believes in something. And that something is curiosity.
I could really relate to his deep quest. He has turned curiosity into his “spiritual practice”. It is his discipline (or religion) and it is something he has made a habit of developing and exercising on a regular basis. He surmises that he has done about 800 “curiosity interviews”, five hundred of which are in his book.
He first started his curiosity practice by making it his goal to meet a new person every day and “learn the secrets of their process”. Not just meet them, but get to know them, and see just what makes them tick. Oprah called him “instinctively curious”. I think that curiosity is deeply ingrained in his DNA, as it is in all of us if we choose to pursue it.
I am curious to a fault. If you are not being generous, this could be termed as “nosey”. But like Brian, I am curious out of a sense of wanting to find out more about people; trying to find out what their “story” is; and delving into what makes up their personality. In finding out these things, it gives one a wider look at the world. Brian said that getting to know other people helps you climb out of your box; gives you a more balanced look at life than you can derive by yourself; and helps you make sense of the world.
I am curious as to what makes this man tick. And so was Oprah. She asked him how he started his day. And this was his answer: when he gets up in the morning he has two glasses of water, a cup of coffee, an apple and a banana, and goes directly to his computer and tunes into the Internet where he gets his “news fix” as well as a little gossip from various blogs and newspapers he follows. He says that this is what “gets him going” in the morning—water, coffee, fruit, and inspiration in the form of what is going on in the world around him.
I think that without curiosity we become too myopic. We focus on our own problems and joys and do not make an “emotional connection” (as Oprah terms it) with other people and their problems and joys. We need to get beyond ourselves and understand that we can make our world bigger than what merely goes on in front of our own noses.
Personally I have to curb my curiosity. When I visit your home and go to the washroom I keep myself from looking in your medicine cabinet and comfort myself with merely observing what you have on public display—what you choose to show of yourself. I do not go beyond the social mores of the day and pry into your life by opening closed doors. (And you can do me the same favour when you come to my house—closed doors at my house really do hide a multitude of sins—the mess of my life gathered up in hampers and hopefully “hidden”.)
I often wonder where the phrase “curiosity killed the cat” came from. According to that infamous site of all things explainable, Wikipedia, it is part of a proverb. I find it interesting that the last part of the proverb, “but satisfaction brought it back” is less frequently seen. Not so surprising if you think about it, as it seems to pardon the supposed sin of curiosity. It is interesting to note though that in 1916, “Curiosity Killed the Cat” was a real headline in The Washington Post. A cat by the name of Blackie actually did die of a broken back after falling from some high climbing high jinx.
Notwithstanding Blackie’s unfortunate fall and eventual death, curiosity satisfied makes life “bigger” (unless you are a cat who has used up your nine lives.)