Doug Bruns

Posts Tagged ‘curiosity’

In closing…

In Curiosity, Happiness, Life, Memoir, Writing on October 20, 2012 at 6:00 am

Behold the dangerous beauty of obsession!

My life can be easily reduced to phases, measured by degrees of obsession. These phases link to interests, which are sparked by curiosity. I do not know how to be interested in something without being obsessed by it. Obsession and it’s odd opposite twin, Discipline, have been my brightest marching outposts. My capacity to sustain pace is, however, inelastic and, pushed to the limit, fails me. Then, just like that, everything stops. Let me give you an example.

Several years ago I became interested in the classical guitar. I took lessons, went to workshops, sat in on master classes at a world-reknown conservatory. I studied music theory, took classes in composition. I played in recitals, practiced for hours. A guitarist grows long nails on the right hand to pluck the nylon strings of the guitar. One day, out of the blue, I cut my nails and put away the guitar and never played it again.

This pattern has repeated itself for years. Some passions–for that is what they are–last years, some only months. Some are still born and buried the next day.

That, friends, is the position in which I now find myself. I sense the nascent hankering to move on and redirect my laser-view of life. The blog, this house I live in, is on the wan. I trust you understand. You must know me by now, you know I can’t help myself. I figured I owed you a head’s up.

But before I go, please allow me to do something I have tried to not do. I don’t like to give advice. As a writer, I try to practice the old dictum, show, don’t tell. But let me tell you something now that we are going to be seeing less of one another. (“Parting ways” is such a strong and definite phrase–I just can’t go there.)

Let me tell you that life is the adventure–or lack thereof–that you make of it, as trite as that sounds. My flitting from obsession to obsession might appear random and ultimately meaningless; but the reality is that I encourage life to tickle my curiosity. I have trained myself to conform to the nature of my curiosity. There is a great natural harmony to be experienced in such a practice. If I am curious about the classical guitar, I will throw myself into it. I become a musician. If I am curious about the literature of David Foster Wallace, I throw myself into his work. I become a critic. Want to know what sunrise looks like in Nepal? Me too, let’s go, let’s become adventurers! Reinvent yourself over and over. Pursue the contrary, avoid the ruts. Stay interested–and interesting. Nurture curiosity. Allow yourself the freedom to embrace wholly, as well as relinquish freely.

Let us consider how to live, to paraphrase Thoreau. The terms of my consideration are different from yours. But consider we must! There is no greater challenge, no richer reward, than to carve from the marble of life a vision specific to one’s nature. A life well-lived is the greatest art. Become an artist.

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Satisfaction? Can’t get no…

In Creativity, Curiosity, Life, The Examined Life on April 26, 2012 at 6:00 am

The American journalist and critic, Paul Rosenfeld, wrote of Alfred Stieglitz that he “had a curious intuitive faith that the black box, and chemical bath and the printing paper could be made to record to his satisfaction what he felt about the world.”

Satisfaction extinguishes restlessness. Stieglitz was restless and, contrary to Rosenfeld’s observation, I doubt that photography or any other endeavor Stieglitz pursued, and there were many, brought him satisfaction.

Satisfaction, like faith, is the end of things. That is, once embraced, satisfaction is a balm to the restless. It silences the question, quells the itch, extinguishes curiosity. The search ends. A hush envelops the victim and the river rages undiscovered. The canvas is draped. Form ceases its pursuit of function and all of mystery comes to rest resolved. The world appears set right and the chair exceedingly and surprisingly comfortable.

Fade to black.

I do not recommend satisfaction as a strict way of life.

Please excuse me. I climbed atop a very high horse this morning.

I Have a Dog That is My Mind.

In Curiosity, Dogs, The Examined Life on August 31, 2010 at 6:57 pm

I have a dog that is my mind. I am easily given to metaphor. My dog, Maggie, is restless. She will not sit down. She paces. She scratches at doors to go out, scratches at doors to come in. She sits down, stands up. Head down she sniffs around, led by her nose. She is my mind. She needs movement. She cannot be still. She requires stimulus. She wears me out. She needs constant attention.

I have a dog that is my mind. She explores. She is curious. She is not content. She wants, searches, for something. She explores and loves to run. She will track down a scent. She will lift her head to the wind and smell. She is insatiable. She will not rest easily. She is demanding. She goes when she should rest. She pursues, when she should give up. I am easily given to metaphor. She is exotic, but common. She comes when called. She loves to be petted. She is a dog.

Where and when do we rest? When do we retire and sit down? How do we silence the noise? When does the leash choke? When does it protect? When is curiosity a danger? (The ancients deemed curiosity a deadly sin.) When and where do we (find) rest? I have a dog that is my mind.

Does it kill cats?

In Curiosity, Faith, Family, Memoir, Religion, The infinity of ideas on June 26, 2009 at 5:52 pm

I abandoned my family religion while in college. I did so–abandon my religion–and informed my family, my father and my mother, with a letter filled with pretension and big words. I said recently that I had a youthful tendency to haughtiness and this is but one example. I am not sure how my parents, my mother, in particular, took the letter. I was in college and they had never been. I am sure I talked down to them. I probably hurt them and I am sorry now that I handled it the way I did, aware as I was how important our religion, Christian Science, was to my mother.

I don’t recall ever discussing the letter. Later, I was too ashamed and embarrassed by it, and my mother likely found it too painful to talk about. Her religion was everything. Perhaps my letter will turn up some day, though I think not. I think it was a burden and probably destroyed. Religion was the strongest family link I experienced and in leaving it, all the orderliness amongst the small family of mother, father, and child grew tenuous and subject to strain. Beyond the inevitable drifting of child and parents, my apostasy ushered in a lasting atmosphere of common politeness. The patina of religion, the hue of our family life, had been wiped clear and only an unadorned opaqueness remained.

I left Christian Science for a number of reasons. Chief among them, and most importantly, was the need to remove the strictures necessary to be a good Christian Scientist. That is, I wished to experience life in a broader way. The thing most everyone knows about Christian Science is that the Christian Scientist “does not go to doctors.” And this is true. It is accepted wisdom that Christian Scientists are faith healers and that they don’t go to doctors because they have faith that God will heal them. This is not accurate. In many people’s minds they are akin to snake handlers and child abusers. That was not my experience.

In simplest terms, the Christian Scientist believes that his or her experience is a manifestation of his or her thinking. The

Mary Baker Eddy

Mary Baker Eddy

founder of Christian Science, Mary Baker Eddy, wrote, “Stand porter at the door of thought.” That is good advice, I think. It is not a bad idea to be aware of what’s going on between your ears. Indeed, if more of us did the world would likely be a better place. But Christian Science takes this admonition uncomfortably into the realm of the biological. The sick Christian Scientist, simply put, must apprehend what is wrong in her thinking, fix that, and she won’t be sick any more. There is faith, in Christian Science, that this can be figured out. But it is not faith that actually fixes things, which is a fine distinction. It is like math. One can have faith that the answer to the equation can be arrived at, but faith does not deliver it.

I am not here to discuss the merits of this idea. I grew up with it. Yes, I did not go to doctors. My parents did not go to doctors, nor did anyone in the extended family. They all were Christian Scientists. No one died of lingering illness. We were lucky, I guess. Why do I share all this? Is there a reason for telling these things, this aimless self-revelation? Only this: I want you to know who I am as you read me. The irony of any of this is my desire for privacy in the face of such transparency. Regardless, for whatever reason, it is important that you know what is on my mind and who I am. I live in a crazy world where self realization is an optional achievement.

Is curiosity dangerous? Does it kill cats?

Leaving the religion was necessary. The terminally curious will be subject to all manor of challenge. Fear that one’s thinking can turn on one, regardless of the physiological merits of the notion, can be debilitating and if not debilitating, exhausting. To this day, forty years later, I struggle: with my mind; with my thinking; what comes in; what goes on; what comes out–as is evidenced here, with this very self-referential project. Naturally, a thinking person is going to occasionally wrestle with the packets of information speeding along the neural pathways of the brain. But I was trained to examine, challenge and reject any manor of thought which might prove contrary to spiritual well being. I have toll booths build along those pathways. “One dollar please.”

What does my thinking bring to experience, if anything? Or, said another way, what does my experience reflect of my thought? The Christian Scientist holds that some thoughts are lethal and will struggle to replace them. Like all religions there is a path, a manner of being, to which one should adhere. Is that not the responsibility of religion, to point a way? Some people take direction better than others.

Regardless, like hunger, it was good discipline.

 Again, we realize a calm in the turbulent sea of the unsettled.