“We keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths.”
I’ve got a bit of a chicken-and-egg dilemma here–what came first, my curiosity or my spirituality? Okay, dilemma may be a strong word, but I am, ahem, curious about this. I’ve been noticing my curiosity blossoming like mad in the past few months. The whole world just seems fascinating and I want to learn as much as possible. I mentioned this recent influx of curiosity earlier this week in a class I’m taking, and a woman responded that curiosity opens you to connection with the divine. So I got to thinking, have I always been curious? And at what point in my life did I become spiritual?
While I usually define “my spiritual path” as having begun approximately 17 years ago, by stricter definitions I have been spiritual my whole life. I was born into a Southern Baptist family and can remember experiencing deep faith as a very small child. I was in awe of the fire-and-brimstone pastor of my grandparents’ Baptist church and would always become more devout when we went to visit. I don’t have many memories of stereotypically girlie things like planning my wedding 25 years in advance, but I do remember lying on the bed flipping through the Old Testament of the Bible looking for good names for my future children (Rebekkah was always my favorite). I also remember an incredibly formative conversation I had with my mother on the way to church when I was about 8 or 9. I asked her how she knew God was real and she said that when she looks at a flower or at the way our bodies were built, she knows there was an intelligence at work in that process, a belief I still share with her today. So while spirituality and religiosity might have been entangled during that era, I would say my spirituality began when I was fairly young.
What’s interesting to me is that I don’t think I was a very curious kid. I would spend twenty minutes with my nose against the glass at Baskin Robbins trying to pick a flavor and then end up with vanilla (still my favorite to this day, especially the Breyers with the real vanilla beans in it). I didn’t like to meet new people or do new things–I preferred the comfort of the familiar. I probably re-read as many books as I read new ones, which is probably why I’ve still never read as many of the classics as I would have liked.
I have to attribute the development of my curiosity to a person. I met my best friend Kirsten when we both moved to Connecticut around the beginning of fifth grade. Her parents had met during the Peace Corps and their whole family had an air of the bohemian compared to what I had grown up with. While I had been raised to have faith, Kirsten had been raised to ask questions. And boy, did her questions ever throw me for a loop! If God loves everyone unconditionally, why do you have to build fancy cathedrals for Him and dress up for Him? Wouldn’t he love you just the same wearing jeans in a shack in the woods? Kirsten opened me up to a new way of looking at things, and really introduced me to the concept that we each have our own unique perspective on the universe.
The convergence of my spirituality and relatively newfound curiosity happened when I took the Confirmation class my freshman year of high school. Now involved in a Congregational church in Connecticut, we spent a year studying the Bible, moving our awareness of our faith from that of a child to that of an adult. I threw myself into the class, asking question after question, studying everything I could get my hands on. I finished the program, went through the act of Confirmation, and promptly dropped out of the church. What I’d discovered had really only opened my eyes, deepened my curiosity, and sent me out into the world like someone dying of thirst would seek water.
That is the place my curiosity finds me again now, at this stage of my life. Having recently left the spiritual community that was my home for many years, I find myself open to all the wonders the universe has to offer. I may land again one day and build a nest amongst a new group of seekers, but I hope I never stay in one place for too long. What I’ve rediscovered here is too precious to misplace again, and this life is just too darn short not to try to soak up as much as humanly possible. It’s okay to savor old favorites–friends and books alike–but there is a whole world of new things out there for me to discover, and I know I’ll love every minute of the process. Namaste.
Photo: “There must be a present for me in one of these bags!“, originally uploaded by John Haslam
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