This article was first published in 2013, as a contribution to the World Book of Values (Van Halewyck Publishing, 2013).
I thought it was time to share it again as I have recently started to ponder “the need to know”, “the need for explanations”. With our increased awareness of our world complexity we all realize now that it is impossible to know, about all things, all the time. Yet we have an urge to constantly fill the void of understanding with quickly made up stories. What I see happening as a result of this constant craving, is an unhealthy simplification of most issues and quick judgement.
I have not changed my mind about the need for inquisitiveness. What I am advocating for six years later, is the ability and willingness to co-exist with ambiguity. Never stop asking why, but be content with wonder, not just with answers.
Inquisitiveness as a World Value
Inquisitiveness leads to learning. It leads to evolution. Inquisitiveness, demonstrated in the right dosage and within respectful boundaries is healthy, engaging, never ending and hopeful.
I feel connected to this value because it has been a “go to” behaviour throughout my life. I only recently recognized this when I was asked to describe myself in a twenty-word statement. After an excursion down memory lane, trying to connect the seemingly unfocused dots of my life into one eloquent statement, I came up with the following phrase: “… has an insatiable thirst and interest in the what, when, where, how and why of everything and wishes to help others learn”. When I read and re-read the phrase, in an attempt to take it from 22 to 20 words, it sounded oddly familiar. Déjà-vu perhaps? No. A cliché? Three hours, a half dozen of unpacked boxes and an upside-down basement later, I found it there in my high school year book! It was the phrase my high school friends had written about me 23 years ago …. almost word for word.
As most toddlers, I went through the stage of always asking questions. Inquisitiveness is a critical, and normal phase of human development. We have an innate need for understanding and this behaviour becomes essential to our survival. We learn through asking and not accepting “because that is the way it is.”
To this day, those around me say that I never outgrew the stage of being inquisitive. I may not have outgrown inquisitiveness, but I did refine it. As my social experience expanded I began to realize that even the best values can also be potentially limiting if demonstrated in excess. Inquisitiveness can turn into – or be interpreted as — nosiness, prying or voyeurism. I have, therefore, learned to always express inquisitiveness within respectful boundaries. There is an appropriate manner and time to ask questions. But the point is that you should never stop asking.
Unfortunately, as we get older our childlike thirst for knowledge and explanations can be met with negative responses, deceit, or inaction. The experience leaves a bad taste in our mouth. Over time our inquisitiveness is discouraged to the point that many of us choose to settle for the status quo or become closed to other ideas altogether.
Loss of inquisitiveness has significant consequences for our lives, our businesses, our communities, our planet.
Inquisitiveness is a critical component to a more peaceful, more tolerant, more sustainable future. Inquisitiveness is a way to engage — and stay engaged — with one another to make the world a more extraordinary and interconnected environment in which to live and evolve.
Ralph W. Sackmen said: “The larger the island of knowledge the longer the shoreline of wonder.” As I travel around this island I consider inquisitiveness a crucial value. One that makes me smile, and leaves me in a calm, optimistic and conscious state of fascination. With inquisitiveness our universe is truly a wonder-full place.
Dominique Giguère, PhD