In an article in the New York Times, I came across a word which describes the human need to seek novelty — Neophilia. While the characteristics of a neophiliac do not entirely describe me, the love for novelty does. This love and need brings about two important and mutually inclusive concepts that resonate through every human endeavor: Curiosity and Exploration.
Curiosity is the trait we should admire most in ourselves and in other people (despite the misused proverb). If curiosity is the cause, exploration is the effect. To explore is to experience new things and learn, which gives rise to more curiosity. Experiencing new things not only has a meditative quality that serves as an incentive, but it is what makes the experience itself more meaningful.
And so we Travel
Expanding my world can only happen when I actually explore it, participate in it, and engage with it. By leaving my comfort zone and learning what is out there — the places, their people, their culture, their food, their stories.
That was an entry I wrote in my journal a little more than a year ago when I decided to write down the most important things to me in this life; travel being one of them. Lately there have been numerous articles about why it’s a good idea to travel and the benefits we reap from it. Travel not only facilitates outward exploration — to discover things things that exist beyond ourselves — but also inwardly as well by expanding our mental horizons.
And so we Read
Reading books is another one of my favorite ways of exploration. We exercise our ability to empathize with authors and characters to not only see things from their perspective, but to allow ourselves to adopt their thinking as we read the words on the pages. It’s a refreshing feeling to think as someone who might be more mature than us, more resilient, or even wiser. If we do it enough, we begin to assimilate the patterns of thought and as it becomes part of us, we grow. We can, by proxy, travel to worlds that only exists in fantasy and experience new wonderful things. We can have a conversation with the author’s words and end up knowing more about ourselves than before we picked up the book.
And so we have Conversations
Being curious necessitates exploration on so many different levels. While conversing with words in books can bring endless experiences, it does not completely fulfill the need for human interaction. It is exhilarating to exchange thoughts and ideas with equally passionate people. Most of what we will learn about the world and ourselves is through others. Conversations are a way to explore others by seeing them from what they choose to share as much as by what they do not. We can help them battle their inner demons while they can help us battle ours. Through conversation, we can show other people their best self by uncovering it, or pointing them in the right direction toward it. Conversations are a way of exercising our mastery with the language that gets us what we want in this world.
We are Creating a Character, We are Building a Story
So what does curiosity get us? The need to explore. And we do just that — travel, read, converse, try new things, learn — and we grow even more curious, so we explore even more. I would argue that there are many byproducts from this cycle of being curious and exploration. Some of the more obvious ones are what we have as a species: our technology, our arts, our knowledge. Then there is the byproduct which many would argue is the end to it all: happiness.
What we are more concerned with is what we see in every curious person we know: depth. There is much depth of character in these people and it inspires us to know what depths we can explore and discover within.
This is our adventure. Every travel, every book, every conversation, and every exploration is our quest to answers. Answers that will attempt to quench the fires of our curiosity, only to let them burn brighter. After all, a quenched fire is a dead flame.