Every now and again my curiosity gets the better of me. Where does that side road go to? There are a lot of roads in the district that I’ve never travelled down, but I tend to be always running to time and there isn’t time to take a road that may take longer or worse be a dead end. So I tend to stay on the bitumen and take the familiar route. But every now and again, for reasons that are a mystery to me, I give in to the urge to turn into a dirt road and see where it goes.
It’s like visiting a foreign country. An old, once grand, bridge fallen into ruin. How is it that our forebears could afford to build them, but we can’t afford to maintain them? Oh look, people live here; old farm homesteads hidden among the trees, their rusted Victorian roofs barely visible. Even in the bush there will be a cottage, sometimes someone’s dream home, sometimes an old caravan revealing there is life beyond the bitumen.
Curiosity was discouraged when I was a child. “Curiosity killed the cat”, I was told. I think it was linked in people’s minds to temptation- Eve’s curiosity about the fruit in the Garden of Eden.
But we are born curious. Curiosity is a key driver for learning and development. Trial and error is basically how a child develops into an adult.
These days it is considered good to be curious. Most of us like to believe we are open to new ideas, new experiences. We try the new restaurant in town. We visit new places when we go on holidays. Employers are now told that curiosity predicts work performance better than nearly all personality measures, most ability measures, more than emotional intelligence as well as a lot of other new age mumbo jumbo ideas.
We want to think of ourselves as curious. We want to be people who push back boundaries, who try new things. We want to question our assumptions and learn new truths.
A lot of people like me reject the spiritual information they were given as children, but then stop asking spiritual questions. Some of us have never thought much about spiritual life. Some people are afraid to ask many real questions. Some are confused and intimidated. Quite a few people are just distracted.
Spiritual curiosity can be hard when anyone you could ask seems to have a vested interest in the answers. Some of the people who seem to have found answers are not particularly open to questions. Whatever our reasons, quite a few of us never really take time to be curious.
According to the gospel of John, as Jesus is leaving his disciples for the last time he gently rebukes them for their lack of curiosity; “now I am going to him who sent me; yet none of you asks me, “Where are you going?”” (John 16:5) There is a lot they (and we) do not understand, but nevertheless he says we will have the Spirit who will guide us towards the truth.
There are plenty of things about spiritual life beyond my understanding. Being open, and curious, about all the non-material things of life; hope, love, trust and meaning builds our spiritual life.There are always more questions. How spiritually curious are you? What are the spiritual questions you would like to ask? The answers may be elusive, but the Spirit will guide and reward our curiosity.
This is the gospel, and it’s good news.
Brian Spencer, Minister