About the importance of being curious

It was an early December in southern Germany – of course without any snow on the ground. Friends and I went on a one-day trip to the christmas market in Stuttgart. We were taking the S-Bahn (suburban railway). I was talking to a good friend of mine, who is also an exchange student from China. She was baffled by one particular train station and its name – it didn’t make sense grammatically, neither was fitting the purpose of being the name of the train station, way too out of place. She was asking me why that is so, why is there a grammatical error, why is that even a train station’s name. To my own embarrassment I was unable to knowledgeably answer any of the questions. I could only give her some of my vague estimations and encourage her to keep looking for the answer, also adding some remarks about how amusing her curiosity for such little things is. She even took a photo of the train station’s name to look it up at home later. During all that our conversation was observed by an old German lady who was silently sitting in the sit across from us and smiling every now and then – she was amused by my friend’s questions too. After realizing she was noticed, old lady gave her elaborate vision on why the train station had such an unusual name. Another adult gentleman also joined the conversation and added his five cents about the history of that district. Soon the old lady reached her station and had to get off. But before that she turned to us and wished us, and my friend in particular, to have a nice time and “to stay curious”, all of this in German, of course. I was thinking about it ever since. Curiosity is not only the driver of knowledge and creativity, but is also a way of enjoying life, of understanding it. It’s about not getting too pleased with yourself, about continuously asking questions. Old lady spoke from her life experience and she knew how valuable it is to be curious. This is where the appreciation of my friend’s curiosity comes from, despite her being a complete stranger as well as evidently a foreigner. I thought of myself later on – how long has it been since I got too pleased with myself – when did I stop asking questions – am I even in position to be pleased with myself. The last question is as rhetorical as it gets – but it was a fair self-reminder. Curiosity crosses cultural bridges and connects people – it makes us better. In the upcoming year I want to be a more curious version of myself. I want to be better.

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