Growing up, the family motto seemed to be “Don’t make waves”.
It was so habitually thrown around that to me, as a curious, intelligent, eager-to-know-things child, the words in the phrase lost their meaning. “Don’t make waves” just became the response to a question that was too hard; or a reaction that was a little too left of the very, precise, exact, absolute centre.
Don’t make waves. Keep quiet. Don’t ask questions. Don’t challenge authority. Do as you’re told. Don’t think, just do.
Don’t make waves…
When my partner and I first got together, he would frequently ask me why I didn’t ask questions about his life, his feelings and his thoughts.
My response at the time was so ingrained with that social norm of my family. Shrugged off as “just how I am”; dismissed and defended with “not wanting to be nosy”; “I don’t like to pry”; “If I’m supposed to know it, I’ll find out about it”… THAT was the one that sent a little red flag pinging up in my brain.
“If I’m supposed to know”… Like I’m not allowed to want to know more about my partner. Or a friend. Or a colleague, or a job description, or anything ever.
It wasn’t until my first clinical supervision session of the semester, that I realised I’d been disagreeing with the concept of “not making waves” for most of my life. Trouble is, I’d become so practiced at sailing a calm blue ocean that I kinda forgot that I didn’t even enjoy it!
Another student was presenting a complicated client case, and our supervisor calmly urged her to: “Be curious about that”. About what? I thought… Be curious? How is that going to help anything? She continued; “Be curious. Always be curious. It’s how we learn more about our clients. It’s precisely how we help them”
Curious?… Doesn’t make sense. Curiosity killed the cat.
Saint Augustine wrote that God ‘fashioned hell for the inquisitive’. Being curious meant prying, and prying into other people’s business was a sinful vice…
No, see, what suddenly dawned on me is that curiosity removes judgement. Being curious about something means innocently, openly asking for more information, clarification and striving for understanding. Curiosity is how we learn! Puppies, kittens, foals, calves, baby-anything’s learn about their world by questioning it! “What happens if I touch this?”, “What does that taste like?”, “Can I jump over this thing to get over there?”.
What if no-one was ever curious?
What if EVERYONE made no waves?
We’d still have a flat earth, would never have made it to the moon, be afraid of the dark, and would probably still be walking everywhere. EVERYWHERE.
Curiosity is defined as “A strong desire to know or learn something”. How can that POSSIBLY be bad? I live in one of the most privileged regions of the world. HOW can I have been taught, (with two exceptional academics in the family, no less) that curiosity is a BAD thing!? Ask the family and they’ll deny ever teaching me that, but that’s child-raising, I think; the intentions of the adults and what the child actually takes and latches onto, don’t always align… Perhaps they’d say it has nothing to do with curiosity, but everything to do with respect. But how can we respect people if we’re not doing what we can to understand their situation better, and understand their feelings.
Maybe I’m being a counsellor when I say that… Because my JOB is to understand people… But maybe it really is important for everyone.
Curiosity didn’t kill the cat. Curiosity showed the cat a whole new world! Curiosity sees something it doesn’t understand, and wants to know more. Curiosity questions why things are they way they are and searches for more possibilities. Curiosity isn’t gossip. It isn’t judgement, it isn’t inappropriate, and it isn’t a dirty word.
I’ll make waves now. I try to be gentle around my family so I don’t make them too uncomfortable… but making waves is a side effect of passion! And passion is (should be) a symptom of life! Passion for something or about something. And passion is what led us to modern aviation, space travel and mobile phones.
Be curious. Without judgement.
And love more.