UU minister, Victoria Safford, speaks of curiosity using the metaphor of perception and sight. She writes,
“To see, simply to look and to see, is an ethical act and intentional choice; to see, with open eyes, is a spiritual practice and thus a risk, for it can open you to ways of knowing the world and loving it that will lead to inevitable consequences. The awakened eye is a conscious eye, a willful eye, and brave, because to see things as they are, each in its own truth, will make you very vulnerable.”
Consequences. I’m not sure I’ve ever thought of curiosity in terms of consequences. But I think Safford’s got it right. There is a type of curiosity that is about enjoyment and adventure. It invites us to experience life as a playground. But there is another type of curiosity that leads to consequences, that changes us. This kind of curiosity is about more than enjoyment. Indeed, it’s the kind that drives us past enjoyment and comfort. It’s not about enriching oneself; it’s about altering oneself.
This is the type of curiosity we Unitarians Universalists have fallen in love with—one might even say, put our “faith” in.
Just think of how we talk about our dances with curiosity. We don’t just tell stories about barraging our poor Sunday School teachers with “Why?!” and “Who says?!”; We tell stories of doing it until we were kicked out of the class. We don’t just talk about being open-minded; we talk about how our open-mindedness led us to leave home and family and walk a lonelier path than we wanted. And lately, many of us have leaned into the hard work of being curious about our role in upholding institutional racism and structures of white supremacy, none of which is just about “learning interesting new things.”
The point of all these stories is that, as hard as these curious paths are, we are grateful for them. We don’t want curiosity to just be fun or interesting. We want it to make us anew.
In other words, the message of our faith is not simply “Be curious!” It’s “Be curious until there are consequences!”
It’s fine to be inquisitive for the fun of it. But at another level, we’re called to remember that curiosity is not game. Well, maybe it’s the greatest game. The one that drives us to constantly become more, for our sakes and for the sake of others.
Rev. Scott Tayler
Soul Matters Team Lead