Doug Bruns

A College Freshman

In Curiosity, Life, Memoir on August 10, 2010 at 8:27 pm

I was talking with my nephew last night. (Family is visiting.) He’s off to college in ten days. He’ll be a freshman. “I used to think about completely reinventing myself when I went off and did something new,” I told him. “You know, you go to a place where no one knows you, like college, you have no biography in their minds, and so you can create your persona any way you like.” He stared at me, his eyes wide open. “I can’t believe you said that. I think about that all the time!” he said.  We laughed and I asked him who he ” was going to be at college.” He said he didn’t know, and probably wouldn’t be that different, but that he nonetheless thought about it seriously.  I suspect it is some manifestation of youth and the nascent stirrings of maturity at work–a sort of, what will I be when I grow up. “Uncle Doug, have you ever done it? Reinvented yourself?” “Sure,” I said, “lots of times.” I told him one didn’t have to move away, or quit a job, or change your hair even, to re-invent yourself. “I like to think I do it a little bit every day. It’s a curiosity thing. What will the world look like if I do this, or what will be my experience if I am that way?”

I am reminded that in antiquity curiosity was an original sin. Now we more often think of it as an attribute we wish to cultivate. Augustine held that God “fashioned hell for the inquisitive.” Lord Byron writing in Don Juan labeled curiosity “that low vice.” He would know, I suspect. For me, curiosity is good. In fact, it would be refreshing, should the notion of sin itself, original or otherwise, be lost to antiquity.

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