Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Curiosity

Curiosity may have killed a cat; but, without curiosity, human beings wouldn’t be on a much higher level of the evolutionary spiral than cats and other animals. Without curiosity, we couldn’t expect much progress, realization, or evolution. During long periods of history, there was little external change and therefore less need for curiosity in adapting to challenging circumstances. Professions, roles, and skills passed down from father to son, from mother to daughter, from generation to generation without much need for modification. Sparks of curiosity did ignite though during the golden ages of various civilizations. Einstein famously described how he had no special talents beyond just being passionately curious and that same curiosity represents a key to the longevity of mind and spirit. The old stay young when they nourish this kind of open-minded adventure; the young become old and dull when they sell their curiosity for complacency, entertainment, and status quo numbness.

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Quotes (65)

“know thyself, for once we know ourselves, we may learn how to care for ourselves… The unexamined life is not worth living.”

Socrates 469 – 399 BCE
One of the most powerful influences on Western Civilization

33. Know Yourself

“Our minds are like our stomachs; they are whetted by the change of their food, and variety supplies both with fresh appetites.”

Quintilian 35 – 100 CE

Themes: Curiosity Mind

“Getting distracted by trifles is the easiest thing in the world... If you are old, do not go far from the ship, or you might fail to appear when you are called.”

Epictetus Ἐπίκτητος 55 – 135 CE via Sharon Lebell
from Discourses of Epictetus, Ἐπικτήτου διατριβαί

“There was a door to which I found no Key:
There was a Veil past which I could not see”

Omar Khayyám 1048 – 1131 CE
Persian Astronomer-Poet, prophet of the here and now

from Rubaiyat

Themes: Curiosity

“the first key to wisdom is assiduous and frequent questioning… for by doubting we come to inquiry, and by inquiring we arrive at truth”

Peter Abelard Pierre Abélard 1079 – 1142 CE
from Dialogue Between a Philosopher, a Jew, and a Christian

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“God would never give us reason, then give us divine laws that contradict such reason.”

Averroes, Ibn Rushd ابن رشد‎‎ 1126 – 1198 CE

“When have I ever opposed the reading of books? It is only that I differ from others in the way I read... so that students do not follow upon someone else's heels or depend on teachers, friends, and books.”

Lù Jiǔyuān 陸九淵 1139 – 1192 CE
(Lu Xiangshan)

“Life's most precious gift is uncertainty.”

Yoshida Kenkō 兼好 1284 – 1350 CE
Inspiration of self-reinvention
from Harvest of Leisure

Themes: Doubt Curiosity

“One shouldn't be too inquisitive in life—either about God's secrets or one' wife.”

Geoffrey Chaucer 1343 – 1400 CE
“Father of English literature”
from Canterbury Tales

Themes: Curiosity

“Everyone who wants to know what will happen ought to examine what has happened: everything in this world in any epoch has their replicas in antiquity.”

Machiavelli 1469 – 1527 CE
(Niccolò Machiavelli)
from The Prince

“Glory and curiosity are the two scourges of the soul; the last prompts us to thrust our noses into everything, the other forbids us to leave anything doubtful and undecided.”

Montaigne 1533 – 1592 CE
from Essays, French Essais

“Begin with certainties and end in doubts; or begin with doubts and end in certainties.”

Francis Bacon 1561 – 1626 CE

Themes: Doubt Curiosity

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“to know and understand a multitude of things renders men cautious in passing judgment upon anything new.”

Galileo 1564 – 1642 CE

Themes: Curiosity

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“And, as imagination bodies forth
The forms of things unknown, the poet's pen
Turns them to shapes, and gives to airy nothing
A local habitation and a name.”

William Shakespeare 1564 – 1616 CE
from A Midsummer Night's Dream

“Curiosity—the desire to know why and how—is a lust of the mind that exceeds the short vehemence of any carnal pleasure.”

Thomas Hobbes 1588 – 1679 CE via Shan Dao
from Leviathan

“If you would be a real seeker after truth, at least once in your life doubt all things.”

René Descartes 1596 – 1650 CE

Themes: Doubt Curiosity

17. True Leaders

“So blind is the curiosity by which mortals are possessed, that they often conduct their minds along unexplored routes, having no reason to hope for success... unregulated inquiries and confused reflections of this kind only confound the natural light and blind our mental powers.”

René Descartes 1596 – 1650 CE via Haldane and Ross
from Rules for the Direction of the Mind

Themes: Curiosity

“Curiosity is only vanity. We usually only want to know something so we can talk about it.”

Blaise Pascal 1623 – 1662 CE
One of the greatest French writers of all time

“The heart has its reasons of which reason knows nothing.”

Blaise Pascal 1623 – 1662 CE
One of the greatest French writers of all time

Themes: Curiosity

“To myself I am only a child playing on the beach, while vast oceans of truth lie undiscovered before me.”

Isaac Newton 1642 – 1726 CE

Themes: Curiosity

“Ask questions about everything and investigate everything; things will start to go well when you are no longer fooled by books.”

Kāngxī 康熙帝 1654 – 1722 CE
from Emperor of China, Self-Portrait of K'ang-hsi

48. Unlearning

“Paths of learning are necessarily divergent, they reflect the diversity of mankind.”

​Zhang Xuecheng 章学诚 章学诚 1738 – 1801 CE
(Chang Hsüeh-ch'eng)

“We know accurately only when we know little; doubt grows with knowledge.”

Goethe, Johann Wolfgang von 1749 – 1832 CE

67. Three Treasures

“If I am fool, it is, at least, a doubting one; and I envy no one the certainty of his self-approved wisdom.”

Lord Byron 1788 – 1824 CE
(George Gordon Byron)
The first rock-star style celebrity

Themes: Doubt Curiosity

“The crime of inquiry is one which religion never has forgiven.”

Percy Bysshe Shelley 1792 – 1822 CE

Themes: Curiosity

“she was invaded by a kind of love which every girl has gone through —the love of the unknown, love in its vaguest form”

Balzac 1799 – 1850 CE
(Honoré de Balzac)
from Cousin Bette

Themes: Curiosity

“Only that mind draws me that I cannot read.”

Ralph Waldo Emerson 1803 – 1882 CE
Champion of individualism
from Journals, 1847

“Be curious, not judgmental.”

Walt Whitman 1819 – 1892 CE
Premier "poet of democracy" and model for Dracula

Themes: Curiosity

“First doubt, then inquire, then discover. This has been the process with all our great thinkers…He who knows most believes the least.”

Henry Thomas Buckle 1821 – 1862 CE
from History of Civilization

“The greatest virtue of man is perhaps curiosity.”

Anatole France 1844 – 1924 CE
(Jacques Anatole Thibault)

Themes: Curiosity

“One's belief in truth begins with a doubt of all the truths one has believed before.”

Friedrich Nietzsche 1844 – 1900 CE
from Human All Too Human - A Book for Free Spirits

Themes: Doubt Curiosity

“I do not rush into actual work. When I get an idea I start at once building it up in my imagination. I change the construction, make improvements, and operate the device entirely in my mind.”

Nikola Tesla Никола Тесла 1856 – 1943 CE
from My Inventions

“Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination.”

John Dewey 1859 – 1952 CE
The "Second Confucius"

“The incuriousness—the complete absence of science—of the Roman rich and the Roman rulers was more massive and monumental even than their architecture... Rome was content to feast, exact, grow rich, and watch its' gladiatorial shows without the slightest attempt to learn anything of India, China, Persia, Buddha or Zoroaster...”

H. G. Wells 1866 – 1946 CE
A father of science fiction and One World Government apostle
from Outline of History

“Amorous curiosity is like the curiosity aroused in us by the names of places; perpetually disappointed, it revives and remains for ever insatiable.”

Marcel Proust 1871 – 1922 CE via Moncrieff and Kilmartin
Apostle of Ordinary Mind
from In Search of Lost Time

“There are no uninteresting things, only uninterested people.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Curiosity

51. Mysterious Goodness

“We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders.”

G. K. Chesterton 1874 – 1936 CE

Themes: Curiosity

1. The Unnamed

“Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a very foreign tongue… Live the questions now… live along some distant day into the answer.”

Rainer Maria Rilke 1875 – 1926 CE
Profound singer of universal music

Themes: Curiosity

“Authentic religion ends stops when it believes it has found truth and ceases the search.”

Ouspensky Пётр Демья́нович Успе́нский 1878 – 1947 CE
(Pyotr Demianovich Ouspenskii)

“I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”

Albert Einstein 1879 – 1955 CE

Themes: Curiosity

67. Three Treasures

“Trust only those who doubt.”

Lǔ Xùn 鲁迅 1881 – 1936 CE
(Zhou Shuren; Lusin)
Insightful satirist representing the "Literature of Revolt"

from Epigrams of Lusin

Themes: Doubt Curiosity

“But to go deeper, beneath what people say—and their judgements, how superficial, how fragmentary they are!—what did it mean to her, this thing she called life?”

Virginia Woolf 1882 – 1941 CE
from Mrs. Dalloway

“I think, at a child's birth, if a mother could ask a fairy godmother to endow it with the most useful gift, that gift would be curiosity.”

Eleanor Roosevelt 1884 – 1962 CE

67. Three Treasures

“A man should never read his reviewers, nor be too curious about the verdict of posterity.”

Will Durant 1885 – 1981 CE
Philosophy apostle and popularizer of history's lessons
from Greatest Minds and Ideas of All Time, 1968

Themes: Fame Curiosity

“An immense gift for using words, an amazing curiosity and power of observation with his mind and with all his senses, the mask of the entertainer, and beyond that a queer gift of second sight, of transmitting messages from elsewhere, a gift so disconcerting when we are made aware of it that thenceforth we are never sure when it is not present: all this makes Kipling a writer impossible wholly to understand and quite impossible to belittle.”

T. S. Eliot 1888 – 1965 CE

Themes: Curiosity

“I am so absorbed in the wonder of earth and the life upon it that I cannot think of heaven and angels.”

Pearl Buck 1892 – 1973 CE

Themes: Curiosity

21. Following Empty Heart

“As long as you ask questions you are breaking through, but the moment you begin to accept, you are psychologically dead.”

Krishnamurti 1895 – 1986 CE
(Jiddu Krishnamurti)

Themes: Curiosity

“every man's mind ought to keep working all his life long; every man's imagination should be touched as often as possible by great works of imagination... education ought to end only with life itself.”

Robert Hutchins 1899 – 1977 CE
(Robert Maynard Hutchins)
from The Great Conversation

“Of all, one must doubt.

Eric Fromm 1900 – 1980 CE

Themes: Doubt Curiosity

65. Simplicity: the Hidden Power of Goodness

“As long as mankind is made up of independent individuals with free will, there cannot be any social status quo. Men will develop new urges, and these will give rise to new problems, which will require ever new solutions. Human life implies adventure, and there is no adventure without struggles and dangers.”

René Dubos 1901 – 1982 CE
Influential scientific environmentalist

“Since we can never know anything for sure, it is simply not worth searching for certainty; but it is well worth searching for truth; and we do this chiefly by searching for mistakes, so that we have to correct them.”

Karl Popper 1902 – 1994 CE
Major Philosopher of Science
from In Search of a Better World (1984)

Themes: Doubt Curiosity

“A sense of humor is incompatible with the complete acceptance of any dogma, any religious, political, or economic prescription for salvation. It synthesizes with curiosity, irreverence, and imagination.”

Saul Alinsky 1909 – 1972 CE

“Curiosity and irreverence go together, cannot exist without each other.”

Saul Alinsky 1909 – 1972 CE
from Rules for Radicals

“To the questioner, nothing is sacred, he detests dogma, defies any finite definition of morality, rebels against any repression of a free, open search of ideas no matter where they may lead.”

Saul Alinsky 1909 – 1972 CE
from Rules for Radicals

“Curiosity and irreverence go together, cannot exist without each other.”

Saul Alinsky 1909 – 1972 CE
from Rules for Radicals

“The continual stream of new discovery and fresh revelation and inspiration which arises at every moment is the manifestation of the eternal youth of the living Dharma and its wonder, splendor and spontaneity.

Dilgo Khyentse Rinpoche དིལ་མགོ་མཁྱེན་བརྩེ། 1910 – 1991 CE
"Mind" incarnation of Jamyang Khyentse Wangpo

32. Uncontrived Awareness

“Doubt is a condition of life quaking in the bone because the bone is on fire”

Jack Kerouac 1922 – 1969 CE
from Some of the Dharma

Themes: Doubt Curiosity

“Poets feel that we are cut off from meaning by a thick, lead wall, and that sometimes for no reason we can understand the wall seems to vanish and we are suddenly overwhelmed with a sense of the infinite interestingness of things.”

Colin Wilson 1931 – 2013 CE
from The Occult

“The average person is not especially curious about the world. He is alive, and being somehow obliged to deal with this condition, feels the less effort it requires, the better. Whereas learning about the world is labor, and a great all-consuming one at that.”

Ryszard Kapuściński 1932 – 2007 CE
“One of the most credible journalists the world has ever seen"

Themes: Curiosity

“We have two alternatives: either we question our beliefs - or we don't. Either we accept our fixed versions of reality- or we begin to challenge them. In Buddha's opinion, to train in staying open and curious - to train in dissolving our assumptions and beliefs - is the best use of our human lives.”

Pema Chödrön 1936 CE –
(Deirdre Blomfield-Brown)
First American Vajrayana nun

17. True Leaders

“I'm hoping to be astonished tomorrow by I don't know what.”

Jim Harrison 1937 – 2016 CE
"untrammeled renegade genius”
from In Search of Small Gods

Themes: Curiosity

“Curiosity can bring guts out of hiding but curiosity evaporates. We need guts to go for the long haul. Like an amusing friend you can’t really trust, curiosity turns you on but then leaves you to make it on your own—with whatever courage you can muster”

Haruki Murakami 1949 CE – via Jay Rubin, Shan Dao
from Wind-Up Bird Chronicle

“Those who make a difference do so because they are different… prepared to… ignore the warnings and rewrite the rules; plush back the barriers of the impossible.”

Peter Kingsley 1953 CE –
from A Story Waiting to Pierce You

“I never cut class. I loved getting A’s, I liked being smart. I liked being on time. I thought being smart is cooler than anything in the world.”

Michelle Obama 1964 CE –

“We actually need intelligent doubt and skepticism; they protect us against mistaken views and propaganda.”

Dzogchen Pönlop 1965 CE –

Themes: Doubt Curiosity

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