One of the more interesting books I read in Russian was a children’s book titled “Why”. It follows a little Russian boy asking his Mom “why” every time she tells him something. Most parents are familiar with this exercise. I really like the word why. Too many times decisions are made without a clear understanding as to why something is being done.
I’m reading a book now by Maria Livio titled, Why? What Makes Us Curious. The theme of the book is how important it is to be curious. Albert Einstein said, “Curiosity has its own reason for existence. One cannot help but be in awe when he contemplates the mysteries of eternity, of life, of the marvelous structure of reality. It is enough if one tries merely to comprehend a little of this mystery each day.”
The book’s protagonist is Leonardo da Vinci. Livio talks about Leonardo’s unspoiled mind and unlimited curiosity which lead to many discoveries that were far ahead of their time. Curiosity activates both pleasure and danger zones in the body – and for Leonardo that was a good thing. As we look back, its seems the most creative people in antiquity could be seen as suffering under ADHD (attention deficit hyperactivity disorder). We see people like Leonardo constantly jumping between different topics, unable to focus on a single topic or domain for significant amount of time. It is thought that Leonardo suffered from ADHD, and we are better for it in my opinion.
From childhood to adulthood, most of us are curious by nature, but only a few are really driven by it. They question why is also an enemy of tyrants, because a curious society will not simply obey without an understanding of “why”. Our first amendment is a direct result of our founding fathers interest in why, and the need in a successful Republic for a free and curious people. Why is often one of the first words a child learns – for good reason.
I haven’t finished the book yet – but so far it’s been a good and easy read. Lots of anecdotes and interesting stories. Ask why today (and tomorrow). You never know what you will learn.