Sunday, May 18, 2014

2014.05.18 The Spirituality of Curiosity

Curiosity is a very pleasant place to dwell. Relaxing even.
And most certainly fruitful.

The above quote is from a prose poem, “Experiments,”  by Margaret Wheatley. I love this delicious idea. Of course I do. It's true of me. I used to drive my parents crazy with questions and more questions. All kids do that as they grow but I never grew out of it. My curiosity is insatiable really. I wish my brain could keep up with what I want to find out.

Since my curious bent knows no limits it has quite naturally turned to theology. I mean if you’re going to question everything, then eventually, or even first off, you must question the most mysterious thing we can name. Still, as long as I question it means that I’m faithful, which means not stuck on certainty.

Here is more from the Wheatley excerpt: 

Curiosity it a very compelling space—open, rich friendly. We’re willing to be surprised rather than having to get it right. We’re interested in others’ perspectives, intrigued by differences, stimulated by new thoughts. 

Curiosity is a very pleasant to dwell. Relaxing even.
And most certainly fruitful.

All it requires is letting go of certainty and admitting we
don’t know what we’re doing.

Let the experiments begin.

I doubt if curiosity ever killed any cats. They’re too smart. But I often get into trouble with my questions. To some people they can feel rude and invasive. Others love it and see my curiosity as a sign of caring, which it is.

There is a lovely woman in our neighborhood who drives a motorized wheelchair all over town, moving along the city streets, potholed and hazardous enough for cars, bikes and pedestrians, but for a wheelchair?  She goes some distance to get over to Mass. Ave. and the Dunkin’ Donut shop. One day I met her. She was toodling along in the rain holding an umbrella in one hand and steadying a sizable bag in her lap. She called to me for help. “May I borrow your cell phone? I forgot mine and also my keys.”

I gave her my old-fashioned flip-top phone, then helped her dial. Her husband didn’t pick up so we dialed her son. “Hi, it’s mom. I’m out here on someone else’s cell and I forgot my keys so will you go unlock the door? OK. Thanks.”

She thanked me profusely and we chatted a bit as neighbors do. We exchanged names and I then went on my way, reassured that she would go on home and be able to get in. I thought to myself: what an attractive friendly woman; I and wonder why she lives in a wheelchair. Did I mention that she has flaming red hair coiffed in a neat pageboy?

I expected she’d go right home. I went over to the square to do my errands and while walking back, still in the rain, I spotted her sitting near the window of the Dunkin’ Donuts shop drinking her special coffee. I tapped on the window and waved. She waved back and we grinned.

The next time I saw her she was on another street, this time traversing snowy, icy surfaces and griping about this winter like everyone else was. She is either intrepid or insane. 

“I just have to get out into the world,” she said. “Every day is a curiosity.”

“I know what you mean,” I said.

I had swallowed my curiosity and kept myself from asking what kept her in a wheelchair. I’ve met her several times now, and I call her by name and say hello. One day I asked her, “What keeps you in a wheelchair, Theresa?”

“I have MS,” she said with a smile.

“I’m so sorry,” I said smiling back. Should I have been more gushy, boo hoo-ish? Or apologize for my question?  No, I decided, remembering that she was as curious about each day as I was, and listening to my heart, which beat with compassion and admiration for this woman’s spunk.

It’s my mind that generates the curiosity. When accompanied by a compassionate heart, curiosity is more loving than invasive—”a very pleasant place to dwell indeed.”

I thought of the first disciples. If they hadn’t been curious they’d never have discerned resurrection.  Jesus often asked bold questions. Imagine asking a hopelessly crippled paralytic man if he wanted to be made well? Obvious, but Jesus was curious to know what the man wanted before he whipped out a miracle healing. The man’s own heart’s desire was as important to Jesus as Godde’s was for healing. 

(I promise I won’t ask Theresa if she wants to be healed next time we meet. I’m not that curious—and besides, I couldn’t deliver.)

Prayer will be enough—an act of honest care, of faith, not certainty.