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Week 20: The Case for Staying Curious | Everyday Nostalgia

The Case for Staying Curious | Everyday Nostalgia | The Nostalgia Diaries Blog

My daughter Zoey and I are walking to the park down the street from where we live. I suppose I should use the word walking loosely, because Zoey never really just puts one foot in front of the other; her momentum always seems to come from a series of leaps and twirls and skips and hops and the occasional hip shake. It seems that for Zoey, she is destined to float and dance through life. 

She runs ahead of me and propels herself into a leap, and after a brief airborne suspension, Zoey lands, one foot at a time, squarely into a puddle. As it splashes around her, Zoey laughs and lifts her head and arms in joy for sticking her landing. 

“A perfect 10!” I say as I catch up to her.

Since it is almost summer, the late afternoon sun is still high enough that it’s able to dance across her cheeks. It is streaming down from a cloudless azure sky, one that Zoey stands blinking up at, one that has blissfully and momentarily stopped her in her tracks.

“Why is the sky blue?” she asks, curiosity beaming from her eyes.

I can’t immediately recall the real reason, so without even thinking, I reach into my back pocket and slip out my iPhone to look up the answer. But in that moment, before the little glass circle can read my fingerprint, I pause. Here I stand, a world of overwhelming information at my fingertips, but I have to wonder:

Will the quick scientific answer I will easily find in seconds kill her curiosity instead of cultivate it?

* * *

Back in 2007, Princeton economist Alan Krueger and Nobel Laureate Daniel Kahnemana published a paper called “Are We Having More Fun Yet?”. In it, they posed these questions:

  • Have the social progress, economic prosperity, and technological advancements of the past 50 years changed the quality of our lives?
  • Have these new opportunities allowed us to spend more time doing what we care about most, thus increasing our satisfaction and meaning in life?

I think it’s safe to say that for most, the answer to the first question is “yes,”  Certainly the years have seen a quality-of-life shift. But has our quality of life improved, or has it actually diminished by all of the so-called “advancements”?  To that point, I would say many would answer the second question with a disgruntled “no.” 

Generally speaking, our time is spent doing unsatisfying work activities and chores and then decompressing by engaging in activities that could be considered mindless (i.e. snacking, watching TV, messing around online, or “doing nothing.”) Because of this, we actually spend less time engaged in enjoyable and meaningful activities—spending time with loved ones, creating, discovering new things, or simply just playing. 

Yet, regardless of what generation we are from and what technology has been readily available to us, there was a time in all of our lives when we did engage in more of these meaningful activities: 

Our childhoods.

Although I do appreciate the fact that I can find the answer to almost anything in a matter of seconds on my phone, I’m often nostalgic for the time of my life when the answers weren’t readily available, when I was able to wonder about things for just a little bit longer. As a child, the act of being curious was something that felt almost decadent. I was recently reminded of this when I recreated my mother’s magical fairies for my daughter. Zoey didn’t ask me for the real reason why they appeared, and I didn’t search for the scientific explanation of how the sunshine refracted off my watch crystal to create the sharp drops of light dancing across our ceiling. We simply sat there in that moment together, enjoying the wonder above us, our imaginations bursting with fanciful ideas and questions and made-up answers.

* * *

Think about the last time you were curious about something: Did you pull out your phone and Google your question? And when you found the answer, did your curiosity simply stop?

When was the last time you actively wondered about something and used your imagination to come up with an answer or two? Was it yesterday? A month ago? Years ago? Back when you were a kid?

Curiosity, which is a state of active interest or genuinely wanting to know more about something, creates openness to unfamiliar experiences. Being open to new things provides us with greater opportunities to experience discovery, joy, and delight. And when we experience more discovery, joy, and delight in our lives, all of a sudden, our lives become so much more meaningful. And, as we all know, meaningful lives are satisfying lives, and satisfying lives are happier lives. 

So the next chance you get, keep your phone in your pocket and stay curious for a little longer. This simple, nostalgic act could very well help you on your journey to start creating a happier, healthier, more fulfilling life.


* * *

“Why is the sky blue?”

Zoey is looking at me, waiting for my answer. I put my phone away, sit down on the sidewalk, and look up at the wide expanse above us. Zoey plops down beside me. 

“You know what?” I say, “I can’t remember. Why do you think the sky is blue?”

Zoey keeps looking up as she ponders this.

“Well,” she says, her thoughts causing her brow to scrunch up. “The only logical explanation is that black and yellow make blue.”

“Wait, what? Black and yellow don’t make blue, honey,” I say laughing. And even though I know they really don’t, I do find myself doing a quick scroll through my own color theory knowledge.

“But, mom,” Zoey says, “The night sky is black, and then the yellow sun comes up, so those two colors must combine to make the day blue.”

I smile at Zoey’s logic. Her answer makes me happy that my phone is tucked away in my back pocket.

Had I Googled the question and found the answer and told Zoey that the sky is blue because molecules in the air scatter blue light from the sun more than they scatter red light, our conversation might have just ended there. But I didn’t, so we are still sitting next to one another on that sidewalk. Cars drive by us, the people inside surely wonder what we’re looking at, but we don’t care.

We sit there together, our eyes tilted toward the sky, appreciating the unknown for a little while. Then our pondering turn silly—”God must get really good pricing on blue paint!”—but to me, this is ten times better than looking up the real answer right now, because we are together, marveling at that incredible blue sky, having a conversation, and making a connection. Wavelengths of new memories are being created right now: we are making it so that one day Zoey will get asked this question again, and she will remember this moment, one where black and yellow met to make blue.

Today and always, this is something I want to work toward: making and keeping our world full of wonder and curiosity. And, because of this, I know—without a doubt—that our lives will be infinitely more magical and beautiful. And that knowledge doesn’t come from any Google search—it comes from us: in who we are, in what we do, in what we experience, and in every last thing we notice, pay attention to, and wonder about.

 * * *

Talk to Us: How do you stay curious in a world that makes it hard to do so?

Week 20 Suggested Reading

Curious: The Desire to Know and Why Your Life Depends on It | Ian Leslie

In Curious, Ian Leslie makes a passionate case for the cultivation of our “desire to know.” Just when the rewards of curiosity have never been higher, it is misunderstood, undervalued, and increasingly monopolized by a cognitive elite. A “curiosity divide” is opening up.

This divide is being exacerbated by the way we use the Internet. Thanks to smartphones and tools such as Google and Wikipedia, we can answer almost any question instantly. But does this easy access to information guarantee the growth of curiosity? No—quite the opposite. Leslie argues that true curiosity the sustained quest for understanding that begets insight and innovation—is in fact at risk in a wired world.

Drawing on fascinating research from psychology, economics, education, and business, Curious looks at what feeds curiosity and what starves it, and finds surprising answers. Curiosity isn’t, as we’re encouraged to think, a gift that keeps on giving. It is a mental muscle that atrophies without regular exercise and a habit that parents, schools, and workplaces need to nurture.  — Pulled from description

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33 thoughts on “Week 20: The Case for Staying Curious | Everyday Nostalgia

  1. I remember being a preteen (I think) and leaving the supermarket late at night with my dad. I could see my own shadow stretching from me in 6 different directions. I’ll always remember my dad’s response of, “Why do you think you are casting so many shadows?”

    That night, it annoyed me because I wanted an easy answer and wasn’t in the mood to think. However, when I look back, I’m so glad I have a dad who pushed me to think and invited me to wonder.

  2. I love this! Living with the Wonder of a child is important in life, and it is important to love these wonders with your child. Staring at the stars has to be one of my favourite activities to live in wonder, and I love seeing my children just be in awe of everything!

  3. Ah I love this so much! It’s awesome that we have Google at our fingertips and can ask and get an answer to almost any question so easily. This makes me wanna appreciate all the simple things like I did as a child again.

  4. Love this post! So good to think about this. Because yes, when I’m curious about something I google it and then I’m done. There’s nothing more to it. My best friends son is about two years old and he’s starting to ask so many questions. Everything is new and interesting. Sometimes I feel like we waste our potential to be curious and learn.

  5. I think that we really do have to be naturally curious and imaginative people to be able to continue to live curiously in this day. If you have a hunger to learn more and more and more, you can stay curious. If not, it’s going to be tougher. Hopefully that makes sense. haha

  6. Oh, I just love this so much. I thought when I moved to the countryside, I’d have more moments like this. I’d be removed from the stimulation of my day-to-day mundane activity. But I think I’ve gotten worse. I feel a sense of disconnect so connecting through social media/Internet/any means possible has me feeling even more disconnected to the present moment.

    Thanks for the food for thought this morning <3

  7. WOW – I was actually just thinking this morning about our relationships with our phones, wondering to myself when was the last time I woke up and didn’t have a phone in my hand within the first hour of consciousness. There used to be a little more mystery, a little more slowness.

    I had a conversation with my 60-year-old mom the other day, and she mentioned that she had been wondering about something for a few days and it was “driving her nuts.” I looked at her like she was an alien and waved my phone at her, “Uh, Google, Mom?” She replied that she doesn’t know how to Google or access the internet on her Windows Phone; she uses her iPad occasionally but mostly just for watching Netflix and playing games. There was something I loved about that – and you’re definitely going back to that here.

    I think I’m going to take a long walk with my daughter today, without any technology with us. Thanks for this thought bubble! xx

  8. I love this, I think my favourite part of being a parent is getting to think like a child again. I love the stories children come up with to reason the world around them. I can’t wait for my Monkey to tell me why he thinks the sky is blue.

  9. So true that phones can kill curiosity. I have so many random thoughts that I google for answers (my husband laughs at me for some of the things I google). Curiosity keeps us young. I can’t tell you how many times we have joked about our parents only wanting to eat at the same 3 restaurants (we live in Houston- arguably the food capital of the US). 🙂

  10. Ya know, I hadn’t really thought about the fact that we kill their curiosity with simple answers. I’m keeping this in mind going forward.

  11. I love this!! Such an important reminder to engage in those everyday activities and out our technology. I think this often. And I agree, curiosity is so important for kids, and I love that you asked her reasoning for it. This gets her to use those important critical thinking skills!

  12. This is such a fantastic point. So much of our lives is spent going from one activity to the next. I enjoy watching my daughter be curious and wonder about the world. I will have to make more of an effort to join her in that!

  13. I love this. My 12yr old was asking my science related questions the other night for his science fair project and I was like ummmm ask Dad otherwise we are going to have to google that one. You know because dads a fireman so he should know how things light up lol. My brain was overly tired and it just came out with a really huney look 😉

  14. I love this so much! I used to teach high school English and we always had the best conversations and discussions in the classroom when the phones were put away. It made the kids really think and work out different ideas.

  15. You’re such a good writer Corey! You’ve reminded me how important it is to put the phone away sometimes. I tend to want an answer NOW, but that means I’m raising kids who also want answers NOW.
    Time to go back to basics

  16. This was so thought provoking! I do sometimes find myself looking up a quick answer when my son poses a question. I totally agree that we’ve kind of lost something by having soooo much information at our fingertips!

  17. As always your posts are like a breath of fresh air! I loved this, because as a teacher I LIVE to see that curiosity get piqued and a student crave information. That was such a wonderful moment with your daughter, I hope I remember this when mine is old enough to ask those “curious ” questions! And I am very interested in that book, may be on my summer list!

  18. Love this, its so provoking.. Sometimes this “curiosity factor” gets burdened by day to day activities, but I ponder how much curious I was as a kid.. There is so much to know in this world & really feel happy that my kid is so inquisitive. He sometimes asks questions whose answers even I don’t know, so that juggles up my brain to be better prepared next time:)

  19. I LOVE this. So beautifully written, and such an important message. I have three sons, and I’m always in awe of the amazing questions they ask me. They’re always thinking, wondering . . . and I love it. I agree that an instant scientific answer isn’t always the best way. Let’s keep those creative juices and the curiosity flowing!

  20. This is such a great post! I love when kids are still in their curiosity stage of life. To be honest I wish we would never grow out of it!

  21. I can’t tell you how much I love this! I feel sometimes that I’m going through the motions and on my phone too much- I need to be more connected to raising my daughter! thanks for the book suggestion!

  22. Beauitful! I love her logic as to why the sky is blue! It is so true that we often are trying to capture the moment or are distracted by technology that we don’t live in the moment! It is one of my goals to disconnect from technology and connect instead with my children. Thanks for sharing!

  23. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this! So refreshing. I have had the same inner struggle with this, myself. There is so much I fear our children’s generation will miss out on due to our own advancements.

  24. It’s inspiring to encourage a child’s curiosity! As a mom, I find myself amazed when she asks questions about the world and life or how she observes at things. I think we lose this wonder as we grow up but my little one’s curiosity often reminds me to be adventurous and curious again.

    Mae |

  25. I’m very interested in that book now! And I agree, curiosity is so much more fun, freeing and develops us into better thinkers than just googling the answer.

  26. I loved this! Too often I rush to google any and all questions and sometimes need to remind myself to slow down and revel in the wonder. My favorite thing is when my son asks “why?” about things and talking him through what the possibilities are.

  27. You make such a great point! I probably use the internet too often to try and explain things to my kids rather than letting them be curious and use their minds to think of their own answer. There will be plenty of time for “the right answers” when they are in school and doing test and whatnot, but allowing them to be curious more often is so important.

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