Red light. Toilet. Grocery Store. Gas Pump. Dinner Table. Sidewalk. Bed.
A pretty random list of seemingly ordinary things, several of which we all encounter on a daily basis. But this list of ordinary, everyday “activities” has become the breeding ground for one of my greatest vices: curiosity.
Being a young adult in this "twenty-insta-fast-buzz-first" century, I have become far too accustomed to the “tomorrow” mentality. “I’ll do it tomorrow” I often catch myself saying. Working out, daily prayer, overcoming habitual sin, loving my fiancé; all of these things, at some point or another, have been pushed off to my “tomorrow” list. I’m not all that bad though, occasionally I am able to tackle my to-do list in the moment. But when push comes to shove and it’s been a long day, my tomorrow list begins to grow as I embark on the endless pursuit of trying to find the right movie on Netflix (which ends with me having spent more time browsing for a movie than actually watching one), settling for whatever random marvel movie is available.
As a soon-to-be married twenty-seven year old who is working full time for the Church and actively pursuing a music career, I don’t really feel like I have time for “the tomorrows”. The old saying “time is money” has never been more true in my life, yet I still find myself wasting the hours (and yes, I mean hours) away on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Netflix and (insert what you will). It may seem harmless, but if you are anything like me, you want to be better, you desire to grow, you long to learn more about yourself, this world, God, politics, coffee… yet you settle for eye catching articles and thirty second videos that, ultimately, just leave you wanting more (hmmm.. sounds like sin… doesn’t it) and that ever so productive “tomorrow” just never seems to come around.
I desire to grow. I desire to pursue my vocation on a daily basis, but my curiosity often leads me astray.
We live in a curious culture. I ardently believe that curiosity, when not tempered, leads to comparison, comparison leads to complacency, and complacency leads to death. Here’s an example from my own life: As a musician, I follow many different producers, record labels and others musicians on Instagram. I gain a great deal of perspective into the music world and what it is like to live as a full-time touring musician. But I have also found that there are two very real, very negative side effects to my status as a “follower.”
I compare myself to their successes, tilling the soil of my heart and soul for lies to begin to grow: “You’ll never be as good as he/she is. You’ll never write a song that will be as successful. There is no way you can actually do what they are doing…”
I am distracted from the path and plan that the Lord has for me, leading me to run the risk of never becoming who the Lord intends for me to be.
These lies have crippled me. Before I’ve gotten out of bed in the morning, I have already given into complacency. Since I will never be as good as the others, I might as well not even try, right? Thus I resort to my lifestyle of continued comparison and judgement, resorting to hours of Netflix and Facebook rather than stepping headlong into the challenge of life that lies ahead of me.
What our world deems as “connected,” I deem as “life threatening.” Saint Augustine refers to this “problem” of curiosity as “concupiscence of the eyes.” St. Thomas Aquinas takes it a step further, building upon Augustine’s definition, stating that curiosity is a vice against temperance. He even lays out a series of guidelines for us to gauge our level of curiousness (as interpreted by me).
Curiosity is a vice when:
Our desire for knowledge is prideful; for the sole purpose of knowing more than those around us.
Our desire for knowledge draws us away from a more profitable study.
Our desire for knowledge is not ultimately directed to its due end, that is, knowing who God is and how he is working in our lives.
Our desire for knowledge is seeks to understand things beyond the confines of our intellect, those things which belong properly to revelation.
Curiosity leads to comparison, comparison to complacency, and complacency leads to death.
So where do we go from here...
One of my favorite authors, Henri J.M Nouwen, once said; “Solitude is the furnace of transformation…it is the place of great struggle and great encounter”. It is only in this place of solitude with the Lord that we will come to know his plan for us learn how to cooperate with his grace. We must learn to control the urges we have to check our phones, or resort to Netflix, or browse the internet at seemingly pointless moments in our day. When you are sitting at a red light, invite the Lord to be with you in that moment. When you are in line at a grocery store, look up, smile, and engage the person in front of you in conversation. When you are walking down the street, look up, and acknowledge God’s creation. We miss out on so much life when our heads our glued to our phones, who knows what the Lord’s been doing, I know I’ve been missing it.
Our world is growing more and more uncomfortable with silence, with solitude, which makes this transition so much harder. We must retrain our hearts and minds to seek encounter over entertainment, to know that to be challenged by the task at hand is a good thing, and that when we do choose entertainment, let us invite the Lord to be with us in those moments too.