Thursday, January 19, 2006

Addendum on Curiosity

In one of my previous blogs, Mystery and Curiosity I had made a slight allusion to the power of curiosity. Thence, I have come to know that, by many, curiosity is not always looked at in the way I had meant. Curiosity also could mean that peepy tendency, the urge to know about others' secrets.

In a very western-like society, we ought to respect the personal-space of people. By personal space, we mean a space -- in space, time,'s difficult to define, in what -- that's completely allocated to that person. An expanse, which the person may keep completely to himself. In practical sense, we consider it acceptable that a person may have a place, possessions, time, thoughts which he doesn't share with anybody. Think of all these as coordinates in some kind of abstract space. Then there will be certain points in this space which belong only to a single person. That's his personal space.

So, it's OK for people to have a personal space. The kind of curiosity that instigates somebody to violate the personal space of someone else is negative, bad. Quite right!

But, I reiterate that it's man's basic nature to be curious. It's similar to hunger, or sleep, or sex. A person who has his hands full with food, rest or erotic pleasures is not in a position to acquire any more of these things. But, as soon as present stocks deplete, man will again start craving. But, we observe that just being hungry doesn't entitle us to any food; we have to earn it. Just being tired and sleepy doesn't make rest an obvious choice; work overrides our craving for sleep, more often than not. Just being sexually aroused doesn't make it legitimate to pounce on the object of desire; there's a way (a very very complicated way, in case of humans!) to gain access to this satiation!

Curiosity, in the similar manner, is one of our basic instincts. It's always there. It always has to be fed. If the inventive mind of ours is full of preoccupation, it doesn't crib. The moment there's some compute power available, it starts fidgeting about, looking for something new to know, to explore, to understand, to become the master of the secret of. And like all the above, there're social regulations on the ways and avenues which could be used to feed the curiosity.

Like all the above cases, our volition is usually strong enough to override this primitive urges. We know when not to eat, when not to sleep, when not to make sexual overtures. We know when not to be curious too.

In all these counts curiosity qualifies perfectly well as a basic biological instinct. In fact other species also show traits of inquisitiveness. So, curiosity, in a strict sense, is not unique to humans. However, our superior intelligence, our logical, creative, imaginative powers, combined with our urge to know and explore more, gives us that special power. I consider that power special enough that following it honestly and legitimately, we will someday be having coffee with God at His house! :D

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