“Curiosity killed the cat.” Even though a cat has nine lives, curiosity is its demise. Or is it? The actual phrase, originating from English playwright Ben Jonson's play Every Man in His Humour in 1598, stated “care’ll kill the cat.” Now we’re getting somewhere. Yup, care killed the cat. That makes so much sense from a psychological perspective. In other words, too much care, taking on too much responsibility, too much ego, too much concern, etc. is the real threat to prematurely end the cat’s Life.
As we expand the idea of caring too much, we begin to notice the toxic burden of clutching onto too many expectations, taking on too much responsibility for the world’s problems, toting around a rigid identity related to righteousness, and carrying ego-dependent identities (rigid beliefs about Self and others). As the cat informs, this way of moving through the world weakens our very nature as human beings. The weakening occurs because we become consumed by our own rigidity. We don’t adapt. We don’t expand, extend, or grow beyond the surface of the identity onto which we’re toting and clutching. Similar to the cat, weakening our human system make us more susceptible to being preyed upon.
The despair that manifested for the cat circumvented the basic nature of the cat, meaning it’s the only thing from which the cat couldn’t recover. “System Failure.” Too much care precluded the cat’s capacity to live out its destiny of nine lives, its essential characteristics of resilience and adaptability. Cats make mistakes because they have the wiggle room of nine lives. Yup, caring too much creates desperation and despair. Consumption infects the entirety of your Being as you quest for one outcome or attach to one right way to be in this world. When the outcome goes awry, care mutates into the unhealthy mental and emotional states of sorrow and loneliness where Death, not Life, starts knocking at the door...
For some peculiar reason, the adage of “care’ll kill the cat” turned into the phrase “curiosity killed the cat.” Without sinking into the abyss of conspiracy theories, we can acknowledge the reality that curiosity has been viewed, historically, as intrusive and meddlesome. Curiosity can be seen by others as too risky, too exploratory, or too selfish. For some reason, our society values the idea of caring. Care holds privilege from a conventional perspective. Care becomes associated with kindness, and giving the appearance of kindness becomes normal and over-valued. As such, care can be used by some as a socially acceptable weapon that hides behind the mask of conventional wisdom.
Unlike Ben Johnson’s play, curiosity, not care, is the main attraction of this play. No weapons are needed. Curiosity doesn’t hide. Curiosity looks fellow human beings in the eyes and invites them into engagement, not consumption. Instead, let’s honor a curious soul who I view as an artistic genius. Yep, it’s an honor to invite Justin Timberlake to our Play (don’t laugh). In 2006, Justin brought “sexy back,” or, at least, offered it as a possibility. In a similar fashion, the adage “care’ll kill the cat” is often followed by the rejoinder “but satisfaction brought it back.” Yes, let’s reclaim curiosity as natural and healthy movement and bring satisfaction back as a way to move in our daily lives just as Justin brought sexy back (which wasn’t really about sexiness per se).
Regarding the idea of bringin’ satisfaction back, let’s add water as a backdrop in our play where curiosity is the main attraction. Water satisfies human beings when the human system experiences mild dehydration symptoms. Water doesn’t produce earth shattering excitement; it satisfies our mind and body. Satisfaction may not be “sexy” but seems to flow congruently with the way human beings move through the world in the short-term. Curiosity is satisfying; it engages its Environment with interest and satiates the human system’s desire to move toward and participate with its Environment. Curiosity asks appropriate and natural ‘Why’ questions (and who knows where it may lead us).
Yet, and this is significant to understand in relation to the Beauty of curiosity and a primary reason others attempt to eradicate curious energy, curiosity creates tension. Curiosity can be clumsy as it unwittingly bumps into its Environment. Again, curiosity doesn’t hide behind conventional wisdom or social acceptability. The process, not the outcome, is its drive and energy source. The answer or decision is not as appealing as the joy derived from the exploring and experimenting. Furthermore, being process-oriented means we won’t attach as easily to our curious energies. In other words, curiosity isn’t desperate or Self-righteous.
Next time you have a chance, listen to a five or six year-old kid. You’ll see the Beauty and innocence of curiosity. The tension curiosity creates doesn’t encroach upon others even if it’s perceived as such. In my humanizing work with clients, curiosity creates space for me and the client. Curiosity allows me to receive and even respect desperation without becoming desperate. We create space, which offers the opportunity to engage without either of us taking the comment, question, or insight too seriously. Yet, the curious remark may build a bridge or ladder into areas of the psyche where Pain and Beauty await.
The future is wildly uncertain and divinely unknown.
For now, let’s go with idea that curiosity satiates human beings’ desires to grow within and learn from its Environment. Like water, curiosity satisfies the human system when we’re bored (dehydrated). Like water, it quenches the human system when we’re genuinely and intrinsically interested in understanding some thing more fully (maintaining healthiness). Like water, curiosity flows well as it moves with its Environment. Like water, curiosity may run into obstacles as it looks for the path of least resistance. Like water, curiosity is essential and necessary to and for the human system. Like water, curiosity has survived the test of time. Like water, curiosity matters.