By Arthur H. Gunther III
Curiosity, we are warned, killed the cat, but the naysayers never tell you about the nine lives. There are other chances.
In the University of Higher Education that is life, you can earn a doctorate via Curiosity 101, 201, 301, 401. Curiosity was a welcome push for Thomas Edison and Albert Einstein, who thought out of the box, who often applied barely basic skills of learning to journey, as Buzz Lightyear says in “Toy Story:” “To Infinity and Beyond.”
Einstein did poorly in school arithmetic and early math. Had he been the traditionalist, had he earned his gold star in calculus, he might have ended up a fine professor of that discipline instead of spending 10 years daydreaming about gravity and the speed of light and whether a fellow saw himself in a mirror the same way traveling through space as he would moored to earth. His e=mc squared formula might not have been written. And the world would be different, perhaps vastly less dangerous but also behind the times electronically, mathematically, in space travel, etc. The peaceful things.
Tom Edison endlessly tinkered in his lab, trying this and that out of curiosity more than straight applied science. Had he followed strict dictum, he and his people might have given up. If they had let curiosity kill the cat the first time out on light bulb filaments, there would have been no ninth life, no pushed inquisitiveness that found carbonized thread as the winner. And then there was light, literally.
Edward Hopper, the famed American realist painter whose works of solitude and intensity of emotion are so especially defining to the world right now, spent long months in utter curiosity, going to 1930s movies, peering out his Washington Square studio window, looking away from the sea at South Truro, Mass., walking Gotham’s streets and reaching into his mind’s file cabinet for human and architectural sketches squirreled away on so many trips of curiosity. From here and there, Hopper took what he needed, and when the time was right, he brushed in strokes of interpretation that make us shiver decades later.
So, I say to all of you, especially the young yet not spoiled by too many limiting rules: Go for it – be curious, day-dream, move to a different, unique place in your mind. Be independent, dare to “go to infinity and beyond.” This America, in particular, needs your innovation right now.
The writer of this reprinted column is a retired newspaperman who can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org