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After a cup of coffee, I started walking to the library to work. With music blasting through my earphones, a smile moved onto my face. A rather dour looking woman was approaching, and as she neared, her face transformed into a responding smile. She thought I was smiling at her. Inadvertent or not, it felt good to have another human smile at me. Same thing happened again; this time with a young man with headphones on. His smile signaled a recognition. I believed we both thought we were on a similar channel. Fun!
I was curious. What would happen if I had intent with my smile? My hypothesis was: if I smiled directly at people who were passing by me, they would smile back. But how often would I be accurate? The results on this day: one after another, 10 people in a row, smiled back at me. I was particularly pleased when a very serious looking dad, who was wheeling his small child in a stroller directly at me, actually looked at me and nodded in recognition. It was almost as good as a smile! So, in my small sample, I received a 90% smile response and one nod of recognition.
When I arrived at the library, I began to look at the bigger picture. I realized all this smiling behavior was normal. There was nothing special that I or the strangers were doing. After all we humans are equipped with so many special features. We are programmed to be social creatures. Our “mirror” neurons are a big reason. Mirror neurons allow us to “read” what other people feel. We can actually feel how someone else feels and experience the same. Whether we watch a friend eating ice cream or seeing a child fall, mirror neurons can place us in another’s shoes.
This ability is at the core of empathy. I was only experimenting with the conscious use of this feature. And the beautiful part of this experience/experiment was that I got to feel good twice: once for having a smile and again when I was smiled at.
I was also involved in human’s prime mission when in social situations: predicting and affecting behavior. According to world-renown neuroscientist, Dr. Cornelia Bargmann, the number one motive for all social behavior is predicting and affecting behavior. She proved this even with worms having 300 neuron brains.
But I had only been successful in a peaceful, suburban neighborhood. There were greater challenges ahead. My next group: men in tight fitting uniforms on bicycles.
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You wake up on a weekend and have absolutely no obligations or responsibilities. The day is totally your own. What would you do to keep yourself in a joyous mood? You know, when you were a kid, and you awakened in the morning only to find that school had been cancelled. Glorious! Okay, so you may go back to sleep, but what happens when you arise again? Can you orchestrate a series of events that allows this mood to continue? Even blossom? What would you do? Would you spend the whole day playing your favorite computer game(s)? Getting high? Being with your girl or guy? And what if the same thing happened the next day? And the next month, year, and decade?
How long would that joyous feeling last before you became bored? What kinds of activities would keep you fully and joyously engaged over time? Would you have to find and develop “true loves” like making and listening to music, creating art, designing and inventing, playing ball or some physically skilled activity, writing scripts or stories, learning about a distant culture from the past or future?
It might take some time to figure it out. Pursuing those things that made you curious is the beginning of the path to finding the true you. You might find places and spaces that do not excite. So, what? Exploring, seeking, questioning is a process–it’s a frame of mind. You will know when you find it.
Time will stand still–even for a few minutes.
You begin to wonder about so many things/ideas/concepts very much like… a child. Along with the wisdom you have accumulated over the years, becoming part child is a magnificent reality. You see the beauty of a tree for the first time through a six-month’s eyes, or view a drop of dew filled with sunlight revealing a rainbow spectacle, or watch the weaving of a exquisitely engineered spider web with its perfect geometry with sophisticated strength and flexibility, or feel the sweet breeze cool your skin on a sweltering day, or taste a spicy appetizer that delightfully explodes within, or smell the fragrance of a first rain gently hitting the ground after a long, dry spell, or listen to a metaphor matched with a melody that propels you into a state of emotional and mental ecstasy.
So many “Ahhhhhs!” Feel what your body senses when you declare an “Ahhhh!” out loud. Something as simple as an “Ahhh” offers a deep relief from tension.
When asked how he has managed to lead such an adventurous life, Professor Emeritus of English at U.C. Davis, and former Beat Poet, Michael McClure, responded: “I Exercise My Curiosity.” The more things you become curious about, the more alive you feel. And it is a limitless well. Dorothy Parker summed it up best: “The cure for boredom is curiosity. There is no cure for curiosity.”
What about a new definition of intelligence?
Intelligence is measured by how curious you are.
How many questions do you wonder about? Wondering leads to wonder–often at seemingly paradoxical and complex levels. Einstein advised: “Never let go of a holy curiosity!” Your perspective changes. Your life changes. Another of the most brilliant humans of the 20th century and Nobel Prize winner, Richard Feynman addressed this reality in The Pleasure of Learning:
“The same thrill, the same awe, comes again and again when we look at any problem deeply enough. With more knowledge comes deeper, more wonderful mystery, luring one on to penetrate deeper still. Never concerned that the answer may prove disappointing, but with pleasure and confidence we turn over each new stone to find unimagined strangeness leading on to more wonderful questions and mysteries—certainly a Grand Adventure”
Wonder! Adventure! Mystery! Curiosity! Awe! Our birthright! Perhaps that is what Thomas Jefferson alluded to in The Declaration of Independence: The right to… the pursuit of happiness.” And for myself, Nature, Music, Science and the Arts are the Crown Jewels.
Can the development of curiosity be a systemic solution that fundamentally alters the way we think of education and that truly makes for a learn-ed human? Can we facilitate the guiding of young humans who are thrilled to have another go at it every morning (or something damn close)? And upon graduating high school, or certainly after college, are ready to launch into flight to seek answers to quest(ion)s that may satisfy their deepest needs to know; and in that pursuit start to contribute to their fellow humans?
Curiosity is the beginning of the systemic solution (want to truly evaluate a teacher? Teacher excellence happens when the student has more questions about the class at the end of the semester than when she walked in). This systemic solution has a few more steps. It is based on a foundation as old as the wisdom of the Ancient Greeks and the East as well as the brilliant technology and understanding of the mind/body that we have been blessed with today.
The results: students have insatiable appetites to learn. Meeting standards is mere child’s play along the way to falling in love with learning.
And there are a few more steps to keep the rhythm percolating.
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At the Kuriosity Lab we experiment with how become kids fully engaged with learning (equals figuring things out). Our hypothesis, based on neuroscience research, is that when students are completely focused on what they are doing, there is a better chance to place that learning into long-term memory. And to master a skill, whatever it is, the student needs to accumulate that knowledge into long-term memory storage and have the ability to quickly retrieve that information. Sometimes kids, as do all of us, get stuck. When that happens, one of out suggestions can be: how about changing your perspective. We have a 12-foot ladder to climb that offers immediate perspective change. Getting to the second, third, and fourth best answer is thinking like a genius. These two photos of the same thing–lots of sneakers– is an example of this kind of seeing things differently
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The Lab is still not complete, but it is still so much fun to work/play there. I spent some time in the dome space where we experiment with light. Great paradox: in order to play with light, you have to have a dark, dark space. The interior of the dome reaches a height of 17 feet. Amidst the darkness there is a spacious and orderly feel (from the geometric patterns of the framework from the dome. Look at it one way, and you see a series of hexagons; change your perspective and all you see are pentagons. I will remember that when I need to change my frame of mind–just look at things slightly differently and the world can change.
The hexagons and pentagons sharing space.
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Welcome to the Kuriosity Lab! Next to the basic necessities and feeling safe, we believe that curiosity is the most vital ingredient in life. Imagine where you would be if you weren’t curious when you were a kid? It may not be the law like gravity, but Einstein was quite clear how important it is when he advised a group of students: “Never let go of a holy curiosity!” So, we built a lab to explore curiosity.
Check out the new video on The Kuriosity Lab! It is the first in a series; To see how developed a different way for kids to learn and LOVE math, link to: https://vimeo.com/81986205/