In an article in the New York Times, I came across a word that describes the human need to seek novelty: neophilia.
While the characteristics of a neophiliac do not entirely describe me, the love for novelty does. This love and need brings about two important and mutually inclusive concepts that resonate through every human endeavor: curiosity and exploration.
Curiosity is the trait we should admire most in ourselves and in other people (despite the misused proverb). If curiosity is the cause, exploration is the effect.
To explore is to experience new things and to learn, which gives rise to more curiosity. Experiencing new things not only facilitates a meditative quality that serves as an incentive, but it is what makes the experience itself more meaningful.
And so we travel…
Expanding my world can only happen when I actually explore it, participate in it and engage with it. Only when I leave my comfort zone can I immerse myself in everything the world has to offer — the places, the people, the cultures, the foods, the stories.
Many articles have been published recently about why it's a good idea to travel and the benefits we reap from it. Travel not only facilitates outward explorations to discover things that exist beyond us, but also, inward exploration and introspection that expands our mental horizons.
And so we read…
Reading books is another one of my favorite ways to explore. We exercise our ability to empathize with authors and characters to not only see things from their perspective, but also to allow ourselves to adopt new ways of thinking as we read the words on the pages.
It's a refreshing feeling to think as someone else who might be more mature, more resilient or even wiser. If we do this often enough, we will begin to assimilate the patterns of thought, and as it becomes part of us, we grow.
We can, by proxy, travel to worlds that only exist in our wildest fantasies, and there, we can experience new wonderful things. We can have conversations with the author's words and end up knowing more about ourselves than we did before picking up the book.
And so we have conversations…
Being curious necessitates exploration on so many different levels. While conversing with words in books can bring endless experiences, it does not completely fulfill the need for human interaction.
It is exhilarating to exchange thoughts and ideas with equally passionate people. Most of what we learn about the world and ourselves is through others. Conversations are a way to explore others by seeing them based on what they choose to share as much as by what they do not.
We can help them battle their inner demons; while they can help us battle ours. Through conversation, we can show other people our best self by uncovering it or pointing them toward it. Conversations are a way to exercise our mastery with the language that holds the power to get us what we want in this world.
We create a character; we build a story.
Curiosity pulls us to explore, to travel, read, converse, try new things and to learn. Everything we engage in leads us to be more curious, so we explore even more.
I would argue that there are many byproducts of this cycle of being curious and exploring. Some of the more obvious ones are those parts of our culture that are constantly advancing: technology, arts and knowledge. Then, there is one outcome that is by and far the most important: happiness.
We are most taken by the common feature we find in curious people: depth. Curious people tend to have a depth of character that inspires us to learn the depths of ourselves.
This is our adventure. Every travel, every book, every conversation and every exploration is our quest to find answers. Answers will attempt to quench the fires of our curiosity and lead them to burn brighter. After all, a quenched fire is a dead flame.
Photo Credit: We Heart It