Curiosity: Intro, Exercises and Questions
What Does It Mean To Be A People of Curiosity?
UU minister, Victoria Safford, speaks of curiosity using the metaphor of perception and sight. She writes,
“To see, simply to look and to see, is an ethical act and intentional choice; to see, with open eyes, is a spiritual practice and thus a risk, for it can open you to ways of knowing the world and loving it that will lead to inevitable consequences. The awakened eye is a conscious eye, a willful eye, and brave, because to see things as they are, each in its own truth, will make you very vulnerable.”
Consequences. I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of curiosity in terms of consequences. But I think Safford’s got it right. There is a type of curiosity that is about enjoyment and adventure. It invites us to experience life as a playground. But there is another type of curiosity that leads to consequences, that changes us. This kind of curiosity is about more than enjoyment. Indeed, it’s the kind that drives us past enjoyment and comfort. It’s not about enriching oneself; it’s about altering oneself.
This is the type of curiosity we Unitarians Universalists have fallen in love with—one might even say, put our “faith” in.
Just think of how we talk about our dances with curiosity. We don’t just tell stories about barraging our poor Sunday School teachers with “Why?!” and “Who says?!”; We tell stories of doing it until we were kicked out of the class. We don’t just talk about being open-minded; we talk about how our open-mindedness led us to leave home and family and walk a lonelier path than we wanted. And lately, many of us have leaned into the hard work of being curious about our role in upholding institutional racism and structures of white supremacy, none of which is just about “learning interesting new things.”
The point of all these stories is that, as hard as these curious paths are, we are grateful for them. We don’t want curiosity to just be fun or interesting. We want it to make us anew.
In other words, the message of our faith is not simply “Be curious!” It’s “Be curious until there are consequences!”
It’s fine to be inquisitive for the fun of it. But at another level, we’re called to remember that curiosity is not game. Well, maybe it’s the greatest game. The one that drives us to constantly become more, for our sakes and for the sake of others.
Rev. Scott Tayler, Soul Matters Team Lead
Our Spiritual Exercises
Get Curious About Yourself
When it comes to curiosity, we often leave out ourselves. Saint Augustine captured this perfectly when he wrote, “People go abroad to wonder at the heights of mountains, at the huge waves of the sea, at the long courses of the rivers, at the vast compass of the ocean, at the circular motions of the stars, and they pass by themselves without wondering.”
So this month you are invited to get curious and wonder about yourself. Aim your inquisitiveness your way.
We suggest two ways to do this. Maybe do them both.
Option #1: Are you a Giver, Taker or Matcher?
Organizational psychologist, Adam Grant suggests that there are three basic relational and work styles. Explore his TED talk and the overview and quiz below to figure out which style is yours.
- TED Talk: https://www.ted.com/talks/adam_grant_are_you_a_giver_or_a_taker
- Short Overview: https://www.michellemcquaid.com/give-take-quiz/
- Give and Take Quiz: https://www.adamgrant.net/give-and-take-assessment
Option #2: Through the Eyes of a Trusted Friend
There’s no better way to get curious about yourself than with the help of an honest and trusted friend. Often, we only see ourselves clearly when looking through the perspective of someone else. This exercise invites you to get curious about how others see you. Here are your directions:
- Think of a few questions that get at the heart of who you are. We’ve provided some examples below.
- Then ask a friend out for coffee or invite them to take a walk and ask them how they would answer these questions about you.
- Sit with and get curious about their answers. Mull them over. Notice how they challenge, open, affirm or redirect you.
- Come to your Soul Matters group ready to share where this brave adventure led you.
EXAMPLE SELF-EXPLORATION QUESTIONS:
What makes me come alive?
What is my greatest strength as a parent? grandparent? son? daughter?
What scares me?
What makes me a good friend?
How happy am I?
What three adjectives describe me best?
Do I fight fair?
Am I good at saying I’m sorry?
What makes me light up with joy?
When was/am I most daring?
Do I take care of myself?
Where do you see me in 10 years?
Get Curious About How the World Works
Seeker (https://www.seeker.com) is a website built for the super curious! It is organized to help you explore every aspect of our world: space, tech, earth, health, culture. Its short videos take you deep within minutes. So much to satisfy a curious mind!
So, your assignment is simple and hard at the same time:
Search through this amazing website and identify the ONE video or article you are most curious about. Figure out which one got you so interested that you couldn’t help tell others about it!
Here’s the important part: Come to your group ready to share not only which video or article you picked, but also why you think it spoke to you personally. What do you think is the deeper reason it drew you in, beyond “I was just curious about it.” In other words, make sure to get a little curious about why you were curious.
Get Curious About the Other Side
Jubilee Media produces some of the most provocative and important conversational videos on the internet. Their video series is called Middle Ground. It brings together people from opposite sides of various issues to talk, debate, get to know each other and hopefully leave a little more curious about the other side rather than just judging them. It’s something we all could use a little help doing.
So you are invited to get more curious than judgmental by exploring a few of the Middle Ground videos below. Watch them all or just the ones that grab your interest.
Come to your small group ready to share how your curiosity about “the other side” changed you.
Middle Ground Videos:
- Atheists & Christians Debate:
- Liberals & Conservatives Fight Labels And Stereotypes:
- Can Trump Supporters & Immigrants See Eye To Eye? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G0SpzIIHEaE&t=747s
- Can Black Lives Matter & Law Enforcement See Eye To Eye?
- Millennials & Baby Boomers
Seek To Understand Each Other:
- Vegans & Meat Eaters Discuss The Right Diet?
- Rich And Poor People Seek To Understand Each Other:
Get Curious About God
Rev. Kathleen McTigue, Director of the UU College of Social Justice, sets aside time each night to get curious about God. She describes it this way:
“My spiritual practice consists of this: I think back on the events of the day and ask the question, “Where was God in this day?” It’s a question that can be asked in a dozen different theological voices, and if God language fails to resonate, then we might ask merely, “Where today did I really hear the language of my life?” The question puts a sheen of attentiveness and care on even the most mundane dimensions of the day. It gives us a way to cradle the moments of the day just lived and see them again before they’re too far away.”
It’s a powerful way to see the sacred in your daily life. So, take a week and end each day by asking “Where was God in this day?” or “Where today did I really hear the language of my life?” You can simply meditate on the questions or take it to the next level by journaling about them.
Either way, come to your group ready to share how this spiritual practice altered your day. They will surely be curious to hear!
Get Curious About Our Recommended Resources
Our recommended resources are full of wisdom about what it means to be a people of and a person of curiosity. Engaging these resources and finding the one that especially speaks to you is a spiritual practice in and of itself.
So, if none of the above exercises call to you, engage the recommended resources section of this packet as your spiritual exercise for the month.
Set aside some
regular times throughout a week to go through them and meditate on them until
you find the ONE that most expands or
deepens your understanding of curiosity. After you’ve found it, consider
printing it out and carrying it with you or pinning it up so you can continue
to reflect on it throughout the weeks leading up to your group meeting. Come to
your group ready to share where the journey led you.
As always, don’t treat these questions like “homework” or try to answer every single one. Instead, make time to reflect on the list and then pick the one question that speaks to you most. The goal is to figure out which question is “yours.” Which question captures the call of your inner voice and what is it trying to get you to notice? Which one contains “your work”?
Sometimes it helps to read the list to a friend or loved one and ask them which one they think is the question you need to wrestle with!
- What or who has kept you curious?
- What’s something you know now about being a person of curiosity that you didn’t know when you were 18 years old?
- Has being curious ever come at a cost for you?
- As you get older, are you more curious or less?
- Are you regularly curious about what your body is trying to tell you?
- Is that person who drives you crazy trying to teach you something?
- Do you believe that every moment is a teachable moment?
- Have you forgiven yourself for that time you willfully refused to question what you knew was untrue?
- When it comes to you worrying about the future or being curious about it, which one wins?
- Do you think you are worth someone being curious about?
- Which were you taught was more important: the “expert mind” or the “beginner’s mind”?
- Have you ever opened Pandora’s box?
- What is the greatest adventure that your curiosity took you on?
- What’s your question? Your question may not be listed above. As always, if the above questions don’t include what life is asking from you, spend the month listening to your days to hear it. Or maybe the question or call you need to hear is waiting in one of the quotes listed below. Consider looking there!