“Curiosity is one of the permanent and certain characteristics of a vigorous intellect.” -Samuel Johnson
It started simply enough with a conversation on vampire mythos and rose symbolism between a close friend and I. I had reached out because when I came across this as a reference in a book I found the connection didn’t quite make sense to me. What do they have to do with each other? Why use that trope? I realized that there was a question that I didn’t know the answer to, I wanted to know more about. (and trust me, the journey on this particular thread was worth it.) It just seemed natural.
I don’t know the answer.Let’s find the answer. I wonder who knows the answer?
The truth is, I don’t know everything. No one does. If you do, I’d love to be your friend. Just to be able to ask questions when they arise. When did Acedia and Tristitia become sin and not illness? What links the moon to various acts of lunacy? Why are rubber ducks yellow? Not to mention I assume you’ll be excellent at Trivial Pursuit.
But as writer, if I’m going to write on something, I do my best to become a miniature expert in it. If a poem is going to be a piece on birds, I’m going to search the cultural and biological significance of each bird I mention. An essay on justice? Time to find a few case studies and have some historical examples lined up. It enriches the work. Knowledge enriches and informs our work.
I don’t fancy myself a higher intellect than any other, really. I’m just vastly curious. Come on, vampires and roses? Who doesn’t want to know more? And it’s not just when I’m writing, if there’s something I read or catch quickly I make a note and search more about it later. You never know when Jeopardy will finally call and all those years of studying Lapine come in handy.
And research doesn’t have to be a solo project. I often find myself reaching out to friends, trusted elders, everyone and anyone I know if there’s a question I have and I can’t seem to find the answer. I probe the waters of my pond and see if I can fish the solution out myself. And even then, when I do have to research on my own, it’s riveting. Often times what begins as a simple line of research becomes towering volumes of amassed information. From roses, to secret society to Ancient Rome in just one research thread. And that’s how it should be; in a terrible but wonderful quest it should be nearly never-ending.
I think it is the rouge 90s kid in me that’s like this. None of us really accepted the world as it was, there was simply too much going on. The status quo was nothing. Our world changed so much and vast amounts of information became available to us at in compact formats. Suddenly, the world was at our fingertips, literally. And we used that power to learn. Dictionaries, encyclopedia, maps, language guides: a Ptolemaic library of wonders. And as a generation, we ate it up. The curiosity childhood instills in us was fed and nurtured by parents wanting more for their children, teachers who saw the potential of a generation and our peers who had the exact same hunger for information. We were all asking why. And for once, we had answers.
Curiosity is a beautiful thing. And it isn’t to be wasted. It’s like a terrible plague at times, waking up in the middle of the night to pen down a question that floated into my dreams. Catching myself on the bus and having to write on my hands or even my arm. Scrambling to save all of the interesting links and images I find in one day to better investigate them when I have time. It’s a beautiful hunger and one I plan to keep on feeding.