Nancy Napier: Desperately seeking curiosity

Posted on November 18, 2014 by

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Idaho Statesman, Nov 17, 2014 — Winter is starting early in Boise. With 6 inches of snow on the ground and more coming, it’s a great time to stay in, drink tea, and think about curiosity. The reason snow sparks it is because of a summer experience that brings me full circle.

We had visitors from Vietnam in Idaho last summer — good friends with their two daughters, ages 16 and 11. Driving to Stanley brought us past windy, steep hillsides. On one, there was a dirty, hard-packed but very obvious snow bank. The younger daughter, Ha My, squealed and insisted we stop. She wanted “to touch snow.” She’d been saying she wanted to touch snow for an hour, so we were all relieved it was finally going to happen.

Scrambling down the ditch by the road and then up the steep wall of ice, we reached out to scrape off a bit of dirty snow and crunch it in our hands. Ha My was ecstatic. Why was she so interested?

“I’ve heard about snow,” she said. “I’ve read about snow. I know other people who touched snow. But I never did. Now I touched snow!”

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(Ha My in red, Thu Trang, and Tony)

And that brings me to curiosity.

I just read a fascinating book, “Curiosity,” by Ian Leslie. He could have been writing about Ha My. Apparently, curiosity is shaped like an inverted U curve: You need to know SOMETHING about a topic to be curious, but if you know “too much,” you’ll think you don’t need to ask questions or learn anything more. My young friend exemplified that exact situation: She knew a bit about snow but not too much, so she was curious to learn more.

That reminded me of a very odd evening I spent years ago with a person who was fascinated by numismatics, the study of coins.

Yawn.

But that man had such an enthusiasm and ability to reel me in that for about an hour I was ready to become the world’s biggest collector. I didn’t. But I remembered that feeling of being curious enough to want more. It was heavenly.

Think about that in your own life. How often do you feel that zing of curiosity and learning something new? How often do you feel bored or that you “know enough already” and thus don’t ask questions, don’t look at something in a new way or tap that curiosity we all do have in us, just waiting for a trigger?

The thrill we heard in that young person’s voice, as we watched her hands waving in front of her as she jumped up and down in excitement at snow, was marvelous. It’s even more fun to feel that ourselves. And what a useful skill to have in our work worlds.

So here’s a challenge: Learn a little about something new. Listen to a friend, read an article, watch a program. See what that sparks. And in the meantime, what can you learn about snow?


By Nancy Napier; Executive director of Boise State’s Centre for Creativity and InnovationNovember 17, 2014. [pdf: Nancy Napier_ Desperately seeking curiosity – Idahostatesman]