Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Curiosity as Addiction

The reason one goes about distracting himself with fruitless diversions is to satisfy one’s curiosity. Curiosity killed the cat goes the famous saying, as curiosity lead one to discover new worlds and new ideas and new experiences, inevitably resulting in new desires and cravings, more shopping and the spending of money, satisfying the urge to consummate one’s desires and achieve new levels of delight, all of which starts with curiosity. The story of Adam and Eve is really about satisfying one’s curiosity, to eat the forbidden fruit and see what happens next instead of leaving things alone, resulting in their banishment from Eden and their eventual epic procreation that resulted in the human race.  Hence, curiosity is the original sin, resulting with banishment into the reality of normal existence, away from paradise and the loss of innocence as represented by Eden. Some literature depict the forbidden fruit as eating from the tree of knowledge, to quench one’s thirst for information and satisfy that urge to know more and more, unaware that one eventually becomes jaded and cynical with the education gained, ‘did that, done that’ as people say, until the next level is indulgence, excess and corruption.

Perhaps an example is Orson Welles or Marlon Brando, young geniuses or pioneers who have gone beyond the normal limits of talent in their respective fields, going to new horizons with their original visions, craving new experiences to fuel their creativity and achieving greatness but, in later years, becoming overweight and world-weary, a former shell of themselves, exhausted and corrupted in their excess, their innocence long gone, that rare quality that gave their work uniqueness and power. Perhaps another example is Ernest Hemingway, another genius with his literary works, hunting, fishing, travelling and having a good time in a way or manner that is inspiring, continuing well into his advanced years until the pace of his life was no longer sustainable, descending into madness (or, as some said, a momentary lucidity) to commit suicide. Maintaining innocence is perhaps the goal, to be like a child and discover life anew every day, a fresh perspective that keep one alive and vital, not jaded or cynical, not eating the forbidden fruit, not consuming from the tree of knowledge is perhaps the true secret.

Don’t be too smart is a good adage, perhaps concentrating only in a few skills instead of throwing the net wide, to be a hedgehog instead of a fox (or is that the other way around?), to focus and limit one’s wide reading or search for more experiences or skills, maybe the threshold has been reached that the urge for the new is no longer an innocent urge but a cynical striving for more and more like gluttony, unable to stop eating or stop stuffing things into one’s mouth, the innocence of a child’s curiosity already lost and replaced with debauchery and depravity. Eastern despots well known for their wantonness, their harem of women, unlike the puritans of the Western world but with hedonistic rulers as well with their many mistresses, these decadent European kings, excess now spread in the new world with the obscene wealth, vice and abundance of modern times, where obesity and bankruptcy is the norm.  Curiosity is an addiction that needs to be controlled; an urge that translates into a love of food, wine, book reading, travel and search for new experiences, spending money and feeling satiated after the momentary lust is quenched.

I guess the urge starts with a quest for an education, to learn and be a productive member of society; soon it translates into arrogance and greed, to be the smartest man in the room by knowing lots of stuff, or to keep up with the Joneses, to spend more, travel more and experience more and tell your friends about it and spread the green monster of envy,  in a race for social supremacy and wealth; the corrupting element when one tries to share experiences with your acquaintances, turning one’s quest for education into an immoral act of insatiability, acquisitiveness and materialism.  One needs to pull back after one has satisfied the basic need to be productive, to lead a moderate life with the realization that one can never learn more and be the smartest man on the planet, erudition becoming a bragging right to show off. Curtailing this addiction is more difficult to stop than alcoholism or drug addiction or gambling because it comes in the guise of progress, or a positive sign of consumerism instead of materialism, that one has lost the true goal of curiosity, to learn enough to earn a decent living, therefore one does not need to eat the forbidden fruit and go down the road to wasteful indulgence.   Japanese artist remain ascetic I think, not succumbing to over indulgence or overeating but working long hours and achieving more, perhaps people like Toshiro Mifune, Akira Kurosawa and Haroyuki Murakami or Western artists like Ingmar Bergman or Woody Allen or Clint Eastwood who are productive well into their twilight years.

Perhaps age determines when one has had enough, or one’s present circumstances, when one needs to curtail his craving, avoid going to the libraries where one is addicted to books, after all what more can one learn if it is at the expense of productive endeavors; being productive is really the key to life and one must strike a balance between productivity and satisfying one’s endless curiosity. This is a worthwhile resolution for the New Year, to be aware of the compulsion of the mind, the obsession for knowledge at the expense of living a moderate life, to stop feasting on the forbidden fruit and smell the roses, to concentrate on constructive activities to fill one’s days. Now what does one read? Finance and investment books to increase one’s investment skills, computer books to increase one’s programming and technical skills, how to write books to become a writer plus general history, literature, travel, biographical books to deepen one’s reading to use in the future as a writer. Why does one watch movies? To fill the well of a writer’s reservoir for reference in his later works, to expand one’s horizon, also to use as backdrop in some future assignment.  Have you satisfied your curiosity or achieved your objective in reading and watching goals? I think the answer is yes.

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