Some time ago, I went with my family to the Science Museum. They were having an exhibition about The Sun. It was fascinating, with many hands on exhibits that you could play with, such as a portable shepherd sundial, and some incredible video footage of the sun at different wavelengths. It was pretty awe inspiring.
As we wandered about, we came to a room with a few videos about the sun, one of which was about the movement of the sun at different latitudes. Hovering nearby was a large man with a kindly face peering out from behind a greying bushy beard. He had that manner about him of an anxious teacher watching students, hoping they’d take an interest. He came over, and started talking about the video. Turned out he was a volunteer working for the museum.
As he spoke about the sun, you could tell he was brimming with an almost childlike wonder. You just wanted to ask more questions, and he was happy to talk. He revealed a little about himself. From the age of 7 he was told he was a failure, and would never amount to anything. School was a struggle: he couldn’t tie his shoelaces, and throughout his early life it was drummed into him that he would never amount to anything. He left school at the age of 16, with no qualifications. He was diagnosed later in his twenties as dyslexic, autistic, and a host of other conditions including epilepsy.
He looked at me with a twinkle in his eye, and said that none of it had held him back because he was curious about the world. He went on to become a structural engineer, and was involved in developing the MRI scanner with a handful of others, which went on to save millions of lives. He was now involved in the study of neuroscience, conducting work into the effects of blue light on our brains.
As he told me his story, he pointed at my son, and said, “If you keep them curious about the world, it’ll all work out.”
He spotted some other people wandering around looking at the exhibits, and excused himself. Unfortunately, I never knew his name, but I came away with a valuable insight that day.
Curiosity may kill cats, but it remains the key to a life of joy and wonder. Be curious.