The incurious eye misses the obvious, the subtle, the subtext. The incurious eye is glazed in a cataract of ignorance and indifference. The incurious eye is neither blind nor myopic. It is empty.
If there were a God his great gift to mankind would have been curiosity.
Curiosity invented fire, tools, hunting and gathering. Nuclear weapons. Surrealism and existentialism. The bowed instrument on which great musicians have played Mozart’s Cello Concerto in E Flat Major. Curiosity is the light in the darkness. Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. It emboldened the cat.
When a presidential candidate with an orange face and yellow dyed hair imitates a disabled man and promises the fawning grinning multitudes in red hats to Make America Great Again, he doesn’t say how and they don’t think to ask.
There is nothing more terrifying than those who are certain that what they believe is undeniably true. They close their minds to new ideas and knowledge. They reach for metaphorical blindfolds and hide in a Plato’s Cave of their own construction. With a lazy lean towards confirmation bias, those cursed with an incurious eye select information that supports their views and reject information that doesn’t. Believing they know it all, they assume they have nothing to learn.
The Incurious Eye Drops
Relief for the incurious eye can be found in the words of Lorca and Dylan, the paintings of Goya, Van Gogh, Caravaggio, in Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture; in Dizzy Gillespie playing A Night In Tunisia. If you feel lost, you can find yourself on long walks through the winding paths of unknown places. Stop and watch as the shadows lengthen and the sky turns orange, pale green and silver.
I have chosen to illustrate this essay with a photograph of myself taken by Patrick J Domken at the art gallery that bears his name in Cadaqués, the village in the Ampurdan where Salvador Dalí and Marcel Duchamp fought battles across the squares of a chessboard on warm afternoons outside Bar Melitón with glasses of red wine bearing the bitter taste of tears.
At the Domken gallery we come across new work by artists with ideas and visions outside the narrow walls of reality. We find beauty, surrealism, the murky pessimism of the times in which we live shot through with rays of optimism that remind us of our humanity. Pianists give live concerts. The opera singer Felix Serraclara after retiring sang again at the Galería Patrick Domken van Schendel.
Victoria Macarte dances primeval steps to the drums of Jimmy Gimferrer. The painter Koyama watches. He arrived in Cadaqués and never left. Why would he? I have read selections from my books and attended book launches conducted in a polyglot of languages and, here’s a funny thing, with a curious ear you begin to understand the things you don’t understand.
A swirling, mindful post, Clifford! 15 years or so ago, we had a weekend in Perpignan. Hadn’t booked a hotel, just meandered along, looking for suitable places. We came across the Windsor Hotel, where Dali had stayed: there was his photo in reception! We stayed there and it was comfortable!
Loved his statue lying across the roof of the station, but it’s now a different statue in front. Good, but less interesting! My curious 7 year old eyes still look for connection and illumination. It was so good to chat to an Ethiopian in downtown Gloucester 2 days ago, then 2 black South Africans (Zulu) and show them the cathedral: both reminding me of my childhood/teens.
Then a homeless woman, A. I gave her some money and tried to give a little hope (her lovely mum had died two years ago, so I told her her mum had sent me!) And then B, the local Big Issue seller, who’s got an interview for a job next week. Yaaay! And I left him with 4 creme eggs, which I’d serendipitously bought an hour earlier.
With curious eyes and a heart willing to connect, life can stil be magical! Happy Easter, Clifford!
A wonderful Easter message for us all.
Child like curiosity is an essential tool in trying to make sense of the world around us. Asking why repeatedly is a powerful tool to get behind the obvious, but shallow answers most people accept.
The darker twin of curiosity is imagination. This is essential for all creative acts, whether they be art for art’s sake or designing a virus that could wipe out almost all human life. Being able to imagine things that are not there is great when creating things like fiction, but is an illness if you are convinced those things to be true. We humans are amazing and probably slightly insane.
Curiosity killed the cat but we aren’t cats, so curious can be good as long as you’re not a voyeur. Here in New England we use the saying, “tall fences make good neighbors” , be curious but don’t be too curious. Fascism is on the rise and I’m sure curiosity is not high on their agenda list; there are states now that have no laws restricting citizens from carrying a hand gun, and anybody in Florida and Tennessee among other places can pack a gun with no paperwork necessary. I wouldn’t be too curious it those places. Here in Connecticut you can’t shoot a bear even if it has gotten into your house and is raiding your refrigerator; which believe it or not, has become more common that one would think. In Connecticut we are more sane and responsible than most places and our wildlife is better protected than the children in the other states. We are the first state to have a constitution which was the template for the federal version. We have women’s rights high on our priority list and are a peaceful people, but we will go back down south and kick their ass again if we have to; we have laws but don’t think we can’t defend ourselves. Be curious, but don’t be crazy; mind your own business and leave Connecticut alone and you would have any problems from us. Mudflap Over and Out!
Clifford, your insights into the Incurious aren’t simply food for thought; they are a feast for thought. Thank you for continuing to open my eyes and fill them with your own special brand of light. Here in the US, those few of us who remain curious and endeavor to apply Critical Thought rather than blind and biased opinion fight a constant battle against the forces of the ‘Incurious’ or ‘AntiWoke.’ Because we Woke-folk remain ever-curious and open-minded, the red-hated (Mad Hatted) multitude attempt to belittle us with their playground name-calling and assault us with the slings and arrows of the pseudo-insult ‘Woke.” I am proud to be a member of the ‘Woke-folk.’ I am proud to be ever curious. What is the opposite of Woke? Asleep? Comatose? Incurious? Merriam-Webster defines Woke as, “Aware of and actively attentive to important societal facts and issues (especially of racial injustice). This may prompt the AntiWoke to declare the dictionary Woke and attempt to ban it from schools and libraries. If I am Woke because I keep my eyes open and enjoy the search for the subtle and the subtext, then the AntiWoke are misinformed, ignorant and believe ‘they have nothing to learn because their opinions are all the facts they need. I am not much of a believer in God. But what comes to mind more and more these days is, “God help us!”
As always a thoughtful article Clifford. Curiosity killed the cat but satisfaction brought it back. My mother’s end to the quote!
I have curios parents so it’s a natural state of being for my siblings and I. Needs a good dose of fearlessness and independence (not looking to be led by Trump for example) to fire up the curios mind.
I spent part of today gazing at the reredos of the Church of Santa Maria not more than 200 yards from your house in Cadaques.
My curiosity caused me to count the number of angels and infants…and their gilded multiplicity defeated me.
Sending all good wishes from one of your favourite places.