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SELF-CONSCIOUSNESS & CURIOSITY

August 20th, 2020

 

Our current state contains subtle clues about what needs to change in order to get where we want to go.  This isn’t just true literally, as with location but figuratively: it’s the underlying implication of all areas of life:

 

If only I could notice the right details…

 

If only I could see the signal in all this noise..

 

If only I knew exactly what to pay attention too..

 

 

The nature of realization is a subtle alignment of pieces that illuminate a particular structure binding and relating them all.  Before realization, these pieces float among one another, perhaps with only vague association - that association being that they are all aspects of the issue that has created so much confusion.

 

Our experience of confusion is generally regarded as negative and unpleasant.  It’s bound up with frustration and impatience.  But confusion is one side of a rivalnym - a term coined here on Tinkered Thinking to identify a pair of words that refer to the same thing, but in opposite or rival ways - similar to both antonyms and synonyms.  

 

Confusion describes our experience with a subject that we don’t fully grasp nor understand.

 

But so does curiosity. 

 

Confusion is the unpleasant negative version of this experience and curiosity is the desirable one.  The different ways we experience this unknown are so drastically different that we scarcely ever notice that we are referring to the same thing - the unknown.

 

This pair of rivalnyms also contain another important complement which unravels the core of their differences: one is externally focused, the other is internally.

 

At first pass, we might think both these words are externally focused - they both deal with a subject outside of our selves.  But what exactly is confused when we find a subject confusing?  The assumption is that it’s possible to make sense of the subject, so the subject is not inherently confused, otherwise we probably wouldn’t be spending time trying to figure it out.  The confusion has more to do with our own state than it does the issue at hand.  We can easily fit curiosity in to the same rubric.  We are curious.  The subject might also be described as curious, but it’s still reflexive: the statement describes something about our state.  

 

The internal - external distinction is either a bit more subtle or maybe a bit of a stretch.  The experience of confusion, as typified by frustration is an assessment of our own self.  

 

I can’t get this,

 

I don’t understand this,

 

Am I stupid?

 

Frustration is an inwardly focused activity.  And it’s also a dead end: the answer we are looking for does not lie within an assessment of our own abilities, it lies externally, in the details we are studying and an invisible way they are connected that has yet to click.

 

Curiosity on the other hands is the exact opposite.  When curiosity is running high, we often forget our own self completely.  We get lost in the details, exploring them, toying with them, playing.  The focus of curiosity is external, and this is despite the fact that we probably don’t yet understand exactly what we’re dealing with, otherwise, why would we be spending time with the topic?

 

A subtle equation emerges when the pieces are framed in this way.  When patience is added to frustration, curiosity emerges.  But what exactly does that mean?  Aren’t frustration and patience just antonyms?  Is this supposed to mean that the default state is actually curiosity and we just screw it up by adding impatience and frustration?  Well, yes.  Impatience and frustration in the context of something we don’t understand occurs when our own self gets in the way.  We abandon an interest in the situation to become focused on the nature of our own incongruity with the situation.

 

Appropriately though, we get in our own way when we become overly concerned with a sense of self - an identity, a concept of who we are as an entity that can and can’t understand something.  Perhaps, we can make a bit more progress and have a bit of fun during the process if we let go of our sense of self a little bit.


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Podcast Ep. 858: Self-Consciousness & Curiosity

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