Think on Thinking: The Importance of a Curious Mind
Few days ago I was a part of a wonderful conversation in Da Nang city – a beautiful land in the middle of Vietnam adorned with sea and mountain and kindhearted people. At dawn, we came to a café regardless of the pouring rain. We sat on cushions on the floor in a circle so that everyone’s eyes could meet. There were around 20 of us, all young, all eager for the exchange of thoughts and emotions that was about to take place.
The invitation had came to me very openly, ‘we want you to share your experiences, there many who wants to listen.’ I accepted. It was the first time I received invitation of this kind. Normally they would have a topic for me to speak about. But this time, the students wanted to hear whatever I had to say. About life.
We conversed around topics that young people rarely think of – if they think of them at all. Ego, fear, the conditioned mind, authenticity, love, social patterns, transformation, curiosity, freedom, sensitivity, dreams, and so on. All centered around the vastness of this thing we called life. The students were with aroused curiosity. They were fascinated by new possibilities – new way to see life, and new way to live life.
‘Don’t take any thing I’m saying by default. Don’t take anything anyone or anything says by default,’ I told them. ‘Question everything, have a doubt, have a suspicion. Think by yourself. Use your own brain. Stop accepting everything that is crammed into your mind – however deceptively or subtly. Talk back. Disagree. Think.’
Life – doesn’t it make an excellent topic?
Sadly, conversations I often overheard at café are mostly about tiny, petty and confined aspects of life. The fashion trends, the neighbors’ annoyance, the friends’ shortcomings, the crimes on televisions, the famous singers, the latest movies. Most people peek at life through the small windows of their prison cells, thinking that they’ve understood all that is life.
Deeper topics are avoided and labeled “pretentious”, or at best, are rambled about after the stimuli of 3 shots of vodka. Try to sit with a friend and ask him “what does freedom mean to you?” and he will probably looks at you as if there is a slide of bacon coming out of your nostrils.
I suspect that our minds have become dull with the distractions of modern life, or perhaps we feel uncomfortable to reach inward that far and bring out that much of ourselves, or is it because we don’t feel curious about life any more.
Casual conversations on light subject are fine and fun. But the absence of deeper discussions, especially among young people, is dangerous.
With the little time we each have on this magnificent earth, there is so much to understand, to find out, to ponder. It’s important develop a curious mind while we are young, and hold on to the creative life force fueled by curiosity through out our lives. We were born curious, weren’t we? But then we grow up and our questions were brushed aside by adults.
‘Why do mom and dad fight?’ we asked. ‘Why does grandfather never smile?’ we wondered. ‘Why is that old man wearing torn clothes and begging for money? Why is he sitting on the street?’ we wanted to know. But our questions were brushed aside by adults ‘When you grow up, you will understand.’ We also couldn’t ask our teachers because they didn’t like their tedious classroom lessons to be interrupted. So we grow up, and never quite understood. Worse, we no longer inquire.
Albert Einstein famously said “we cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” How can we create the kind of thinking capable of solving the world’s problem if young people cease to inquire?
What I’m asking is an awakened curiosity, an earnest desire to understand life and what it means to lead a good life. Suspect. Rethink. De-condition. Challenge. Shift. Revolt. And maybe we will have a chance to break the patterns of which perpetuation has led to this troubled world. Maybe we will have a chance to make this world a better place.