A starfish doesn’t have a brain but can flip its stomach inside out. All polar bears are left handed, the octopus’s pupil is a rectangle, shrimp’s hearts are in their heads, woman blink twice as much as men, Saturn would float in water, lobsters bleed blue, and a duck’s quack doesn’t echo and no one knows why. These things inspire me. They convince me every day that the world is a strange, fantastic place and that giving into normality, habit, and acceptance, is simply denying a world whose majesty we have only begun to grasp.
The world of the ordinary often surprises us with the amazing and bizarre. It is easy to lose sight of just how intricate and complex the world is. Its contrasts and conflicts inspire and shock us. Finding the fantastic in everyday reality is like walking through the closet into Narnia.
I enjoy puzzles and questions, the mystery of an inquiry that has remained unanswered, lasting out time. Even with all our vast resources of science, spiritual quests, and personal journeys, some things are meant to remain a mystery. That doesn’t mean we should stop asking, rather I believe asking the unusual question and asking with persistence and enthusiasm is essential to being human.
History is filled with fables and stories warning us against an overabundance of curiosity, from Pandora who first sought a peak inside the box of knowledge, to the Patchwork Girl in The Wizard of OZ who is accidentally created with an overdose of curiosity powder. Beginning in childhood we learn it “killed the cat”, that if you go looking for Santa’s presents he might not leave any, and that too many questions about the Easter bunny might find you egg-less the next morning. Humans, however, remain innately curious. It is that value of curiosity that I hope will direct me in living my life.
Some things, however, are not meant to be answered but instead experienced. Five hundred and thirty miles away from a Blue Whale you can still detect its sound. As much as I want to know why the Blue Whale is the loudest animal in the world, I want to hear it. I know the largest eggs laid come from a shark, I know that everyone’s tongue print is different; I know that neither bats nor humming birds can walk. These questions, mysteries, and problems, instill the world with enchantment. Not just because they open up an odd and puzzling riddle but because they make me yearn to see them, hear them, and leave me to imagine them.
It may seem odd that knowing armadillos can walk underwater, or that elephants often die standing up, or that a snail can sleep three years, would inspire anything in anyone more than a sense of the bizarre. But it makes me want to get out of my chair, and house, and town, and see the standing, dying elephants, the sleeping snails, and scuba past armadillos in the river. Curiosity means that something moves you to question, to appreciate and wonder rather than accept. Too often people settle their lives and dreams for a world they soon find predictable. Curiosity is important if only because it motivates us past settling for the known.
Soren Kierkegaard quoted Lessing as saying “If god held all truth in his right hand and in his left hand the life long pursuit of it, he [Lessing] would choose the left.” I want to achieve a life discovering ideas and experiences that can give me even a small understanding of the world. In the same way that Lessing values the pursuit of truth above finding it, I hope to lead a life that is about the journey and not the arrival at the destination.
I do not find myself talented in chemistry, though I would like to, and certainly not in playing an instrument or carrying a tune. I ‘am better at puzzles, in asking a lot of questions, in loving literature and poetry, and finding a great joy in learning. When looking forward to your future, as you have to when you are asked what your life purpose is. I find that the most fulfilling image I have of what my life can be is studying psychology. When considering puzzles, the human mind must be the first and foremost. I can not think of any more fascinating study than that of human nature and of the art that the mind can produce.
I find that my life is about asking questions that inspire me to look at the world in a new way. We should reach for answers rather than expect the universe to serve them up. The common goldfish is the only creature in the world that can see both infra-red and ultra-violet light. No two lions have the same pattern of whiskers. It is physically impossible for pigs to look up at the sky. Why this is true and what relevance it has to nature no one knows, but not being able to answer the questions should not stop us from asking them. In the same way that limitations should not stop us dreaming for better things. In searching for life purpose I hope that my curiosity at the small and unusual and its ability to inspire in me wonder at my everyday reality will not be lost.
Groucho Marx said “life is a whim of several billion cells to be you for a while”. Every seven years the cells that make up your body have died and regenerated. The idea that something is holding our identity together even in the face of such change is heartening. Life really is the whim of cells, the order and seemingly random chaos that makes up one second let alone a lifetime of discovery. When thinking about what will drive my life in the years to come I can only hope that in hard times I will still embrace the values I held in better times. I hope that my life will find purpose in pursuing rather than expecting, in questioning rather than complying. I hope that inspiration will still come from unexpected and astonishing sources.
The poet Rainer Marie Rilke said “…Try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books written in a foreign language.” My life purpose is to find and love the questions that will inspire me to look at the world in a new way. My life purpose? Polar bear hands, Shrimp hearts, and the Unanswered Question.