The Art of Curiosity: Disturb the Silence
Written by: Mariah Weinand, Communications Strategist
My grandma, Cynthia, had, and still has, a membership to our local zoo right outside of Chicago. She can spend the whole day watching snakes slither and buffalo bask without yawning once. Though she loves the animals, the thing she says she loves most about the zoo is people watching. She loves watching the little kids run teasingly away from their parents. She also observes how young siblings “fight like the baboons,” as she describes. However, what she always mentions about people watching is what the little kids point out – their curious minds lead them to notice the most seemingly mundane aspects of the zoo.
“Why is that panda chewing a stick and the black bear eating fruit?” Or “Why does that lion not have teeth when it roars?” And “How do the animals sleep without blankets?”
These observations are what my grandma loves the most. It is always the little kids who point out what the adults don’t seem to notice. But why do the children notice what the adults ignore? Cynthia will say they’ve lost their curiosity and desire to inquire further than what they see on the surface.
Often, kids don’t get questions answered because adults truly don’t know the answer. What average human knows off the top of his or her head why animals have claws and humans have fingernails? Not I! The more children hear, “I don’t know,” the less likely they are to ask more questions. So rather than admitting defeat, my mom and grandma would encourage me to probe further, responding with, “That’s a great question! How do animals sleep without blankets, Mariah?” They knew I wanted answers but encouraged me to ask more questions in order to receive them.
Curiosity is a trait that must be exercised. My friends and family tell me that I ask the most seemingly random questions. Questions from, If you could go one place in the world tomorrow with no budget, where would you go and with whom? to When was the last time you laughed so hard you cried? Questions like these are not intrusive or nosey if you are genuinely curious about people. Asking thought provoking questions in order to receive authentic answers is imperative to understanding people.
It is this deeper understanding of one another that we are lacking in society today. With texting and social media, texts are often read without emotion and lives seem more glamourous than they are in reality. Many times, we have preconceived notions of someone simply because of something we saw on Facebook, tricking us into believing that one person must have the most amazing life, and another is superficial because they posted a selfie. I feel we don’t ask questions anymore because we think we already know the answer, we are afraid of the answer, or more frighteningly - the lack of answer. The question of What even are we? comes to mind. But, it’s these questions that take us one step further to better understanding a person.
Genuine curiosity can change the world. Though in order for this to be effective, we must be willing to listen and accept answers while letting go of any predisposed expectations for a response. How do we get to know and understand one another if we don’t ask questions? Every single relationship gains strength in understanding, but we must have the strength to ask questions no one else is asking in order to understand. As the brilliant Simon & Garfunkel once sang, “People talking without speaking. People hearing without listening. People writing songs that voices never shared. No one dared disturb the sound of silence.” Those kids at the zoo crave information and they want to know why things are the way they are. We as adults should want to understand why things are the way they are, but also understand why people are the way they are. Disturb the silence and ask the question. You won’t believe what you’ll learn.