“Keep this out of the reach of children.”
You have probably seen this inscription somewhere. Bottles of medicines and other “harmful” substances normally bear such labels because it is common knowledge that kids are the most inquisitive people on earth. They see an insect and they want to touch it to know whether or not it bites. They follow Mummy wherever she goes and watch everything she does. They hear strange noises coming from their parents’ bedroom and they want to have a peep. Kids! They want to know everything. But then they grow into adults and that keenness to know more about the things around them dies. Now, they become preoccupied with thoughts of how to walk up to the girl next door and tell them how much they love them, or how they can make more and more money so they can buy themselves a mansion. If adults were as curious as they had been as kids, the world would be twenty miles ahead.
Rangaswamy Srinivasan said, “You don’t need to have spectacular ideas, you just have to be curious.” We often like to think that mind-blowing innovations come about by critical thinking and reading all the books in the state library. Need gives birth to curiosity, which in turn gives birth to invention. You’ve heard stories of the primitive man, who would strike stones, one against the other, in order to light a fire. Who taught him how to do that? I’ve sometimes wondered, who was the very first person to cook jollof rice and how did they come up with the idea? What about cake and ice cream? How did they know what ingredients to mix to get the desired result, since there were no “How To” books then and there were no YouTube videos either. How did they know that chicken eggs could be boiled or fried? How did they know that rhino horns could be used in the treatment of fever? Did they get the knowledge from books? Were there professors to teach them these things? I bet you know the answer. They probably said to one another, “Let us mix this and that and see what happens,” or “You do this and I’ll do that- and we’ll compare results.” The helpfulness of curiosity cannot be over-emphasized.
To quote Einstein, “It is not that I am smarter than anyone else, but that I spend more time on the question.” Often, when we find ourselves in an examination hall, staring at the question paper; we are under pressure to provide the correct answers that we forget to concentrate on the question. Little wonder many examination question papers bear the instruction, “READ THE QUESTIONS CAREFULLY…” on the top left or right hand corner. It’s quite natural to be in a haste to give the right answers and then go to pass your script, feeling like a hero. Remember Silencer from the movie “3 Idiots?” Isn’t it necessary we try to get a clearer picture of the question before we rush to give answers? Most of the answers we learn in school are somewhat mechanical-like; they had been programmed into us.
Question: “What is the plural of child?”
Why “children?” Why not “childs?” We don’t know. We don’t want to know. Just put down the answer and pass your exam. C’est fini.
Absence of curiosity means acceptance of a status quo- and it promotes complacency and resistance to change. It’s quite sad that we make it seem like a crime for someone to want to know more. You have probably heard your mum say to your younger brother, “Ejiro, you ask too many questions. I’m tired- I really need to rest please.” Now this is one problem I have with religion. You are not able to question anything, or else you will be termed “blasphemous.” The Bible says Adam and Eve were the very first humans to exist and they gave birth to Cain and Abel. Cain killed Abel and fled to another land, where he married his wife. Who did he get married to, since there was no other person in the world? No answer. Why is the sky blue and not any other colour? Why do birds fly and fishes swim? Is the earth round or flat? Why do people grow old- and die? Well, philosophers and scientists have tried to offer practical answers to some of life’s mysteries in contrast to answers like, “Because my Bible says so.” In a Harris poll of US workers, it was reported that about 66% of them faced barriers of asking work-related questions. Yet the employers still expect innovation to just happen- like magic.
Many of the world’s most talked-about inventions are a result of human curiosity, and not necessarily due to well-researched findings or technological genius. Having lost three of his children to typhoid, Louis Pasteur responded with a curiosity to overcome disease and in the course of that, he invented the pasteurization process. Isaac Newton wanted to know why the apple fell to the ground as opposed to going upwards. His inquisitiveness, coupled with a lot of effort and scientific research, gave birth to the theory of gravitational force. So you don’t have to be Socrates before you can come up with a staggering discovery. That red-hot desire to know more could do the magic. Well, here’s a test for you: Get a device, probably one that is not in use, dismantle it and try to fix it. And you might just be on your way to revealing a secret to the world.