Author Walter Isaacson has been a chronicler of some of the world’s greatest minds. He has written extensively about Albert Einstein, Steve Jobs, and most recently about Leonardo da Vinci. Per Isaacson, the true masterminds of this world have one characteristic that sets them apart: Relentless, unquenchable, curiosity.
Yes, curiosity may have “killed the cat,” but it is good for our brains, though a study was hardly needed to confirm this fact. Ask any Algebra student how well he or she is retaining the information received in class. Usually, it’s held only long enough for the test and then discarded. It’s not because the average student is obtuse. He or she is simply uninterested.
But those students with a spark of curiosity, who are investigators, have greater success – so do the brilliant adults they become. The unending questions, the seeking, and the incessant searching leads to the extraordinary. Back to Isaacson’s conclusions: He believes that Leonardo should not have succeeded. He was born illegitimate in a time that scorned such paternity. He was left-handed (a sign of mental disability in the middle ages). He was poor.
Likewise, Steve Jobs was a college dropout. He was fired from the company he started. He could be a colossal jerk. He rarely bathed and didn’t care for personal hygiene. And Einstein, where to begin? He didn’t know how to dress or manage money. His early teachers considered him unteachable. As an adult he was “relationship challenged,” and couldn’t stay faithful to one woman.
In all cases, others were smarter, better equipped, had better minds, greater resources, more prestigious education, and greater opportunity. But none were more curious. These men were driven to search, to wonder, to question, and to seek.
Faith is no different. Faith is far more satisfying for those who ask questions, even questions without clear answers; those who won’t settle for cookie-cutter responses; that don’t accept “the way it is” until they have reviewed the way it really is. They keep reaching to scratch that elusive itch within their hearts and minds.
Jesus supported such actions, inviting some of his first followers, “To come and see.” Amazingly, tragic really, those who claim Jesus’ name are not always interested in fostering healthy, inquisitive curiosity. Rather than answering questions with, “Come and see,” many robe-clad clergy respond, “Sit down and shut up.” Yet, few people begin the life of faith in a blinding flash of conversion, hearing angels and voices from heaven. Most people get started when a tiny seed is planted deep within, a seed that when given time, space, warmth, and air to breath, can grow into something remarkable.
Here are Albert Einstein’s own words: “One cannot help but be in awe when contemplating the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. Try to comprehend a little of this mystery every day. Never lose a holy curiosity.” Amen to that, for a faith that loses its curiosity, is hardly a faith worth keeping.
(Photo by Emily Morter)