We are not quite done with 2017 yet, but suffice to say many a wet rag were thrown into the face of humanity the past year. So many societal red lines have been casually crossed that it will be interesting (and terrifying) to see when we can start the crawl back to normality. Some rays of light to report, though: People around the world have made their voices heard in countless demonstrations and in many ways politics has maybe become more mainstream again (although I’m not sure whether the discussion is really about politics or just commenting a soap-opera of people pretending to be politicians). Also, it has been delightful to read that newspaper subscriptions have gone up in many countries this year.
Why, sometimes I’ve believed as many as
six impossible things before breakfast.
While the current state of the universe would be a fully legitimate reason to sink into apathy and hibernation until something changes for better, let’s not. Despite our work and everyday life sucking the last bit of our mojo, it is important to keep our antennae alert. I have the privilege to work and be friends with many journalists. Their job is to ask questions and be critical. This can sometimes be drive one to distraction (there can be too many questions, people!), but precisely that particular trait has always given journalists a glamorous and virtuous aura of a curious tribe, completely incorruptible in their quest for truth.
“Curiouser and curiouser!” cried Alice.
So what I’m telling you, dear people, is that in 2018 I will make an extra effort in taking a leaf from a journalist’s book and become curiouser again. Join me. No-one obviously has the time or inclination to become one of those massively irritating people who question everything just to make a point, but it is important to stay alert and open. You will have heard about fake news, information war, trolls, bots and all the rest, so I shall not lecture you about it. All I say is that we should not take any information at face value anymore. Make a subscription to a proper newspaper written by professionals. Also read books. A famous editor once said that for every page written, the author will have had read at least one book. This should put sarcy tweets and other “shot from the hip” -crap on social media in perspective.
Imagination is the only weapon
in the war against reality.
Curiousness doesn’t mean simply being critical of media and other information. It means having a genuine interest in things around us. Not all of us have the time for a hobby, but we all can have an interest in something that is not necessarily work-related. Cultivate it. Give your brain the possibility to work better by feeding it with something new, giving it new ideas (you don’t necessarily have to agree with these ideas). Think of all the Saturdays spent idling around shops and cafés. How many of these days do you actually remember years later? I don’t, whereas many exhibitions, films and concerts come back after years and years.
I give myself very good advice,
but I very seldom follow it.
Curiosity is often considered rather a vice than a virtue. After all, it did kill a cat, if we are to believe an old proverb. If we are to take Alice‘s word, however, “so many out-of -the way things had happened lately, that Alice had begun to think that very few things indeed were really impossible”. The world needs few things more urgently than genuinely curious people who go through the trouble of finding out about things, bring about new ideas and never stop learning. I believe this is also roughly what Steve Jobs meant in his legendary speech at Stanford University, when he asked the graduating class to stay hungry and foolish (As a personal side-note, while I totally subscribe to all that, in addition I will also continue to stay sarcastic and cynical because that’s who I am).
My book recommendation for learning about curiosity is an obvious choice: Lewis Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”, which also doubles as perfect holiday-reading. There’s an ongoing academic debate whether the book is for kids or not, but it makes fantastic reading whatever the official verdict is, should there ever be one.
“Yes, that’s it!” said the Hatter with a sigh,
“It’s always tea time”.
All quotes from Carroll’s “Alice in Wonderland”.