Curiosity killed the cat

I remember as a child that if I asked too many questions, I was reminded of the proverb Curiosity killed the cat. A sharp way to shut up a child because all the questions can wear out an adult. The problem is that the proverb killed off curiosity as it was too dangerous to step into the world of questioning and asking.

Ian Leslie has written a book called Curious and has a piece on this to which I have referred in previous pieces. What I like about the central tenant is that curiosity  does take us on a journey where we are not entirely sure of the destination.

I remember when I was teaching a History class the Italian Renaissance some time ago, one of the students said: “Why did humans at this point in their history become so curious?”

I can’t remember what I answered but I was blown away by the question. It certainly helps to explain the seminal work of Masaccio’s Holy Trinity (Santa Maria Novella, Florence) and the first use of perspective in art, a key aspect of the change that took place during the Italian Renaissance.

We humans have always been curious. Yes, it is about being interested in learning things around us and attempting to explain and understand. But it can take us to places undreamed of before. Ian Leslie is right when he says it is unruly and provisional. It may well be impulsive.

As children we are also taught not to be curious about the way we feel and our emotions. I remember getting curious about girls’ emotions and when I asked my sister why girls just turned on the taps and wept I received a biology lesson.

Goodness, did I get an earful!  At least she didn’t shut me up.

When I mentioned to my mother I was feeling low, she would remind me to count my blessings – and made me feel I was selfish and I should pull myself together. Now I see that that may not have been her intention at all.

I quickly learned, however, that expressing such emotions was a bad thing but that did not take away the feelings. Brene Brown urges us to get curious about our emotions (Rising Strong) and although it may well take you on a pretty uncomfortable ride and you may well journey into the dark recesses, bravely dealing with your emotions may well provide some answers that you may have got stuck on.

I think getting curious is helping me to get unstuck. A difficult thing I have to teach, an idea I have to convey, a feeling that I have not dealt with. Getting inside the stuckness and getting curious about how I am feeling about it often is the way through the swampy landscape.

Blue against the sun

Chase Jarvis  ( and Brene Brown talk about creatives and what makes them tick. In our own way we are all creatives but show up differently about how we express it or reveal it. We may have buried it in the back garden and can’t find it any more. We may be too afraid to use it and step out. I guess that if we are prepared to be vulnerable to people we trust we can begin to reclaim that which was once lost.

I dare to be out there and you may well not like what I write but that’s okay – what ever you think, I will express some of my creative energy in writing poetry and prose.  You can express yours in the way that says what you are all about.

In this piece (below) I was searching for the emotions that lay behind an experience, lived a long time ago. Although I didn’t know it (I had not read Brene’s book!), I was clearly curious about an emotion that I was feeling that day.

And, here’s the thing, being curious has nothing to do with cats. They have plenty of lives and we have one.


Often, I have been down that road in memories that usually catch me out. If I were to go back again, I am sure it would look different. Then – a dirt, rutted road that made its way from the barracks into the village of Inyanga. Pastoral almost.

It had been the Rhodes and Founders weekend – what a memorial to a joke that we no longer believed in – and I was walking away from the barracks in a cold, biting wind.

I looked back and waved to him – camouflaged-trousers, the shock of blond hair and youthfulness strikes me now all these years later. I wept for him as I turned down the road. An army truck threw up dust, signposting its journey, and I simply cried. They were tears in the wells of a terror that had no name.

(People die in wars).

And I was thinking that this would be the last time I would ever see him again on that cold winter’s morning.

Since then – in recent months – we have talked in snatches about the time he saw things that in a sentence make me weep again for the innocence that was lost to protect something we no longer gave a damn for.

I weep still for my brother and me.




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