One of the great pleasures (in my humble opinion) in life is a long walk through green space.
This long Easter weekend I have indulged (twice!) in a lengthy stride out into the countryside, on one occasion accompanied by my younger son. He often comes out with me and he generally takes the opportunity to update me on his ongoing plans to build a sizable underground base (“villainous lair” his older brother opines) underneath a field to the north of the M23 Gatwick spur.
I often use his updated thoughts on this project as an educational opportunity. “What surface area of sheet titanium would you need to line that hangar?”, “why do you think it would be a bad idea to have a rocket launching so close to a busy international airport?” and “have you considered where your natural light might come from?” are all questions we have considered.
But this time, with the notion of ‘curiosity’ and its desirability (as I mused on last week) swimming around my mind, I took pause before embarking upon another teachable moment. What is it that makes this small(ish) boy so full of curiosity? What gives him such a natural ability to wonder about, well, everything, and to never challenge or dismiss his musings with anything so prosaic as ‘possibility’ or ‘practicality’? And more specifically, why can’t I do that?
When I was much younger I read a book featuring a Chinese philosopher “enjoying the pleasures of idleness”; it occurs to me that perhaps the answer lies there. I write this after a productive day of grouting tiles, treating slate, prepping meals, doing washing and all the other trappings of modern family life. No idleness there. Likewise the NHS managers and medics, porter and policymakers forever scurrying to keep their heads above water.
But is the cost of this industriousness the curiosity that is the hallmark of young(er) minds? Do we ‘forget’ our innate curiosity by filling our lives with things to do - unlike a nine year old who will go to great lengths to do nothing at all. Perhaps the way to begin to build our curiosity skills back up is by taking more time to be idle….