The 365 Commitment

Stay Curious

My daughter’s elementary school teacher ends his email signature with the phrase, Stay Curious. My 10 year old daughter took exception to this sentence. She had many points to emphasize. Besides the obvious fact that curiosity did in fact kill the cat, her main point was that she did not want to stay curious. She was curious so that she could finally get to the point where she did not have to be curious anymore. You see a state of curiosity is one of uncertainty and by implication hard work. To my daughter, Stay Curious is like asking her to go put herself in jail forever. She is good with curiosity for a period of time, but would eventually want this state to end.

This conversation continued when I brought home the meat that I am smoking all night tonight. Port Butt. You see Pork Butt produces awesome pulled pork and if you smoke it perfectly, is just awesome. Sorry you vegans in the audience, no offense meant here. Now, Port Butt is sometimes called Shoulder, for no other reason that to make it more marketable to Americans. When my daughter read that I was putting Pork Shoulder on the counter in preparation for the spiced rub, she was trying to figure out why the pig’s shoulder had so much meat on it. That is what I explained to her what it really was. He perpetually curious state led her down that path, which led to a fun conversation about all the parts of the animal that humans consume. For fun, I asked her to go inquire of her mother and grandmother (fond of southern cuisine) what Chitterlings were.

Yup, my daughter is not to fond of being curious today!

Anyway, curiosity. An interesting consideration. When I was younger, first discovering the technical world that was booming all around me, I was very curious indeed. I have always been the young hotshot kid that the adults would be amazed by. A few years ago, I realized one day after an engineer explained to me what I was not getting right, is when I realized that I have made the transition. I am now the adult that is amazed by the young persons’ ability to pick up the new technologies. I even caught myself lamenting how “fast things are going.” I remember when someone 30 years older than me said that 30 years ago and I laughed at them. All the old people say that, well guess what Mr. Reams. You are the man now. Ugh.

So have I lost the curiosity? When did that happen? Is that really what occurs, we become just so comfortable or involved in our lives that we forget to be curious, forget to be inquisitive? As a family we watched the old Tom Hanks movie called, “Big.” If you were not an 80s teenager like me, here is the recap. Teen boy wishes to be big, he becomes an adult, has to learn to survive as an adult, everyone is amazed by his fresh ideas and his curiosity, he starts to become weighed down by life and loses the magic. He then wishes to be small, you get the story. However, the moments in the movie that are the best is when you see this adult man, alive with curiosity about the world and what is going on around him. Asking questions, trying things out, seeing what works and what does not work.

I was thinking that perhaps there is a time period in your life for that. Perhaps curiosity is reserved only for the teenager and early 20 somethings. It is your curiosity about the world that gets you to try new things, test boundaries. This is how our species has become what it has. However, at some point we have to put food on the table, build a family, contribute to the society in which we live. So perhaps curiosity is for the young. However, I reject that a little.

I reject the concept that the 30+ people cannot be curious because I still find myself being curious. Just about different things. Whereas learning about how data was trans-coded and sent across a medium like microwave, fiber, or copper used to really intrigue me, now I am more interested in how the human mind works and how to manipulate and influence my own behavior. So maybe that is it, we just become curious about different things as our circumstances change. I am less worried about “being someone” now and more worried about “helping someone.” I am less worried about “achieving something” and more worried about “creating something.” I guess I have to be careful, my children have natural curiosities. I must be careful that I do not let my circumstance influence or pass judgement on where their mind wants to go. Embrace curiosity, encourage curiosity. I should never reply with, oh that is not worth pursuing, or that is a waste of time, or worry about more important things.

This last week I got a little down, mainly because I am in pure reactionary mode. Just responding and dealing with problems. Kind of like Tom Hanks in Big. Shoulder sagging, sitting at the computer worried about the deadlines. I have achieved what my daughter thinks is the end state. There is no need for curiosity, because it has been all figured out. However, that I think this is the underlying problem. So this week I have resolved to focus some of my time just letting myself be curious, investigate, figure things out, discover and maybe even create. So to start, I am cooking Pork Butt for the first time, in an attempt to make delicious pulled pork sandwiches tomorrow. FYI, I do know that Pork Butt is the shoulder cap of the front leg of the pig, but sometimes I like to tell my 10 year old things to get her head spinning. Hey – raise your own kid.

Guy Reams

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