Vol. 54 No. 6 1
February’s theme invites us into the world of curiosity. I admit to being curious about many things. To be curious is a natural state of being, apparent in early childhood and carried on through a lifetime of self-actualized living. As children we are natural scientists, asking questions of everything and seeking (and finding!) impossible and improbable explanations. To be curious means to have a strong desire to learn something. Curiously, it could also mean a strange or unusual object or fact: a curiosity. To be curious is part of the human condition.
From the Intern Minister’s Mailbox
My curiosity has caused me enormous challenges. I have found that while it is reasonable to be interested in some things and even reasonable to be expert in several things, it is impossible to pursue an interest in all things. I suffered for many years because I imagined everything was a potential area of focus and interest. I found my mind racing to connect disparate things and make whole pieces of things that usually didn’t fit together. But try I would.
When I attended university, I wanted to take every possible subject. I felt never before had there been arrayed before me such a compelling constellation of courses, subjects and subject matter experts. In my first days at university, I recall spending endless hours reading through the course catalog as though it were the Sears and Roebuck catalog. I remember being smitten with the idea of taking a year-long course in Polish history simply because it interested me, though it had no connection to the courses I needed to complete my major requirements. Also, I looked longingly upon the science and engineering courses with wonder and marveled at all the things that I might never know. I thought myself to be the lesser for not knowing yet finding solace in being an “artsy.” Often our natural inquisitiveness and curious nature insists that we hold opposing ideas. It is from the holding of things in opposition that insight into the real truth of things can be revealed. In the Middle Ages this was called coincidentia oppositorum, an ecstatic condition in which things that seemed separate and even opposed coincide and are revealed with an unexpected unity. The holding of such things can create the opportunity to step outside of oneself, known to the ancients as ekstasis. In Karen Armstrong’s book, The Bible, she states that as human beings we naturally seek a “stepping outside” of our normal, mundane experience. Those wisdom books we view as transcendent enable each succeeding generation to glimpse the truth through their own fresh eyes and new perspective. Our curiosity for understanding our lives and the world we inhabit insists that we apply fresh lenses to what is happening around us. According to Armstrong, the truth revealed by the unity of opposites is a "major characteristic of a peak religious insight is a sense of completeness and oneness.” In the month of February you may find your natural sense of curiosity awakened. If by chance you find yourself holding ideas that are in opposition, I ask that you continue to hold them until the larger truth and unity reveals itself.