Isn’t curiosity marvelous? Something sparks your interest, and you’re off—questioning, learning, exploring, pondering. Say you meet someone new, share a bit about yourself, and they’re genuinely curious; suddenly you’re deep in conversation, sharing details about yourself or your work that you rarely otherwise disclose, and you begin to wonder whether this person might become a friend. Or say you receive a new artistic medium, a set of oil pastels; you’re eager to feel one in your hand, run it across a blank page, be surprised by the streak of color. Or say you’re a writer with one idea that leads to another, that leads to a few weeks buried in the library stacks and then a few years pursuing a project; you’re absorbed, you’re riding the rails of your heart without a clue where the train is going.
The gift of curiosity is this: We lose ourselves. Curiosity makes this seemingly awful phenomenon, the loss of self, pleasurable. We can practice this same loss through some forms of meditation, releasing the small sense of self (the mental ego) for the sake of a bigger, truer Self, but this is a via negativa, a way of emptying, and while it’s deeply transformative it’s a challenging path. Curiosity, on the other hand, draws us into self-forgetting through delight. Somehow our exuberant love opens us to the bigger, truer Self without us ever noticing.
Kids are pros at this, probably because their egos are yet unformed. My daughter heard the music from Hamilton and entered a six-month craze about the Revolutionary War. She’s also had a life-long (well, since she was old enough to draw) interest in all things fashion. The other day I organized her collection of handmade paper dolls, and, I kid you not, she has over a thousand outfits. I believe we’re all born with the capacity for such pure, generative curiosity. Our heart’s delight is a window onto our essential Self, the part of us connected to the fabric of the universe.
As a writing coach, I’ve noticed that the central, selfless, sustained path of curiosity in a project is the work’s life force. It’s the golden thread that binds writer to reader to Source. And this makes me think we all have this thread, writers and nonwriters alike, connecting us to one another and to the universe as a whole. We just need to follow it, fearlessly. –Elizabeth Jarrett Andrew
Lots of good stuff coming up! Please join me and MPR’s Steve Staruch at Normandale Lutheran Church on October 8, 2017, 1:00 p.m. for a conversation on Seeking the Spiritual in Prose and Poetry.
And mark your calendars for The Revision Revival: A celebration of transformation in writing and book launch for Living Revision at Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality on November 17, 2017. I know, I know; most people don’t think revision=good time, but what if this event convinces you otherwise?!
And Living Revision is now available for preorder!
Other upcoming events:
Second Fridays, 1:30-3:30 p.m.: Spiritual Memoir drop-in sessions at Wisdom Ways Center for Spirituality.
October 13: Mysticism
November 10: Holy Sexuality
December 8: The World Boiled Down to a Drop
October 25, 2017, 6:30pm: An evening exploring spiritual memoir at The Retreat with Women In Recovery.
October 27, 2017: Living Revision: A Writer’s Craft as Spiritual Practice workshop at the Loft Literary Center.
September 24-28, 2018: Alone Together: Living Revision at Madeline Island School of the Arts.