Recently, I was reading an issue of the alumni magazine from the College of St. Benedict, my alma mater. There was an article about CSB’s science programs, which included the statement that all scientific discovery came out of curiosity and people who wouldn’t stop asking “why?”
When people ask me to describe myself, curious is inevitably one of the words I use. The rest of my identity seems to be constantly shifting, but I remain stoic in my curiosity. This curiosity manifests itself within religion — I’m constantly wondering why, and more in love with the journey to find the answers than the answers themselves. After all, what could be more satisfying to a seeker than to wonder about God, the one Thing of which we can never be completely certain? Yet, I definitely got the impression growing up within Catholicism that curiosity was not a preferable state of being; instead, my CCD teachers and the priests constantly wanted to give me The Answer that would forever stop the whys. If they couldn’t give me The Answer, they wanted me to stop asking the questions: “It’s a mystery,” or “It’s not for us to question / understand God’s will, but only to accept it.”
What no one seemed to understand was that I wasn’t really looking for answers. I was looking for companions who would ask the questions with me, who would take this journey with me. Curiosity is, after all, a motivating emotion — it can drive us to take a new job, to move to a new city, to turn the page in a novel, to watch a movie through to the end. To remove that sense of curiosity is to remove the thrill that anticipating and not knowing bring to life. In a way, having someone try to convince me they have The Answer is a little bit like having someone spoil the end of a movie or book when I’m in the thick of the tension. So when I ask why, I want people to know that I don’t expect them to have The Answer. I only want to know if they have ever shared my question.
Lacey Louwagie is a freelance writer and editor, feminist, and cradle Catholic. Her favorite topics of exploration are religion, spirituality, psychology, and sexuality. She’s a member of the CTA blog team and founder of a speculative fiction writers’ group. In addition to blogging here, she blogs about writing at LL Word.