The Desire to Know
Organiser   02-Aug-2018
Curiosity is the wick in the candle of learning. And many times imagination is more crucial than knowledge  
The need for novelty constantly feeds curiosity. That is why, anything out of the ordinary, out of place, or out of the normal pattern attracts us so much
Curiosity is inbuilt in every being. Even a tree follows the path of light. It winds its way towards the source of illumination. Light is life. Knowledge is light. We fear ignorance. It makes us incomplete. It unsettles us. Every bit of information that is incomplete leaves us asking for more.
The desire to know is the indicator of our primal ignorance and the confusion that it has created. We have forgotten our true nature, and we remember our forgetfulness and not knowing where to search, we grapple with the nearest thing of which we are clueless. All inquiries, external or internal, are our attempts to understand our true nature. They are our attempts to understand the source of the entire universe.
It is better to be clear about the distinction between the desire to know and intelligence. To be intelligent is not the same as to be curious. One might be highly intelligent and be satisfied with what one already knows. That person might not need to know. The need to know is in many ways a need to use our sense organs. The function of the sense organs or the organs of knowledge is to get knowledge, and so they constantly strive to get some knowledge of using sound, sight, smell, touch, and taste. When we obtain a new sensory knowledge, the sense organs get bored of it after sometime and run in pursuit of new knowledge. The need for novelty constantly feeds curiosity. That is why, anything out of the ordinary, out of place, or out of the normal pattern attracts us so much.
Imagination and Knowledge
It is very easy to increase the ambit of our knowledge by constantly, diligently, and actively channelising our curiosity. Instead of simply taking things for granted, we should always question things. For instance, if we think something is unexplained in our lives, we should seek answers. We should not give up questioning until we get a complete picture of the problem at hand, and we should continue this process of questioning until we completely get a solution to the problem. Even when there is no problem, we should question to know the nature of things.
One needs to think about and analyse every bit of new knowledge one gets. By corelating this new knowledge with the existing knowledge that one has, one can find new meanings of the existing knowledge and arrive at new findings.
Curiosity needs huge quantities of patience. Most of the time, we miss new bits of knowledge because we lack patience, because we are inattentive, or because we do not have enough time. Do you remember how you hit upon the solution to a puzzle by just looking at it for some time? When poring at a masterpiece, one needs to spend several minutes, sometimes even hours, before unraveling the secret strokes of the artist.
Most people seek knowledge for its utility. We study for earning a livelihood. We read manuals for handling equipment. Some people want to know just for the sake of knowing. Their pursuits are refined. They are fearless in the pursuit of knowledge. Often, how far we are prepared to go defines the boundaries of our wisdom. Mystery instills fear, but it also propels the desire to know. If knowing things were as simple as pulling out a book from the shelf, everyone would have known everything. However, we are not given a road map for seeking knowledge, and all we have is an instinctual desire to know, which if not kindled, dies an early death.
Desire to Know
The desire to know can be of two types: existential and intellectual. The existential desire to know is an inbuilt mechanism to keep us alive. On the other hand, the intellectual desire to know is nature’s way of making us wiser and stronger. Contrary to popular perception, infants are not always curious. Their curiosity is limited to bouts of non-understanding and helplessness. The infant’s desire to know is existential at best. From among these two types of curiosity that we can also call static curiosity and dynamic curiosity, we need to strive to be dynamically curious.
Routine life is the biggest enemy of curiosity. If one continues to live a monotonous life and gets into the grooves of the humdrum routine, it kills curiosity. Even in spiritual life, it is very important that the aspirant makes a clear plan of spiritual austerities and has milestones to achieve on the spiritual journey.
Curiosity does not look for certainty. It only looks for knowledge, not certain knowledge. Doubt and curiosity are intertwined. Every curious act has a suspicion of knowing the unknown as its basis. Curiosity does not select. One becomes curious about anything that a person wants to know but is unable to.
The desire to know that is inherent in all beings is nature’s way of reminding us that we are wrongly associating ourselves with false identities. Our true identity is the only thing that can completely quench this thirst for knowledge. As there is a natural tendency to fill voids and water flowing nearby flows into a pit, similarly the void of ignorance attracts all kinds of knowledge. If the knowledge of one’s true self-dawns, then a person will have no more desire to know anything and whatever that person will know further will only be a pointer to the ultimate knowledge of the Self.