Unsatisfied Curiosity


Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap...and Others Don'tI started reading a book written by Jim Collins called Good to Great: Why Some Companies Make the Leap…and Others Don’t the other night and the book opens with a quote:

That’s what makes death so hard — unsatisfied curiosity
— Beryl Markham, West with the Night

Interestingly, just a week ago we were having a family moment at the kitchen table. My son, my daughter, my husband and myself and the question one of the kids asked was: “Are you afraid to die?”

Having worked in home hospice care, providing care to terminally ill patients for a good many years of my life and have watched death happen and helped counsel and comfort the grieving more times that I care to keep track of, I have a perspective on death that I can only describe as ‘accepting’. I’ve thought more about death than most of my family and friends, naturally because death was a part of my daily life for so many years. I don’t have a fear of it. It doesn’t cause me anxiety or stress. I’m actually quite curious about it and am somewhat morbidly looking forward to having the curious questions in my head answered about what happens.

Though, I can say that I am not impatient to have those questions answered – – I can wait.

We all live.. and we all die – – those are two universal truths of life that cannot be argued with. What happens from the moment life begins to the moment it ends is an individual story that makes humanity, ultimately, so fascinating.

I see one problem with death that bugs me — and who knows, maybe I will realize the solution to this particular problem when the time comes. That problem is exactly what the quote above says: unsatisfied curiosity.

Simply put – – I want to know how the story ends.

If I fall asleep tonight and die in my sleep… will I ever know (in random order)..

  1. Who killed JFK?
  2. How the war on terror ends?
  3. Was democracy possible in Iraq … and was it the answer?
  4. Was there ever a cure for AIDS?
  5. Is there proven life on other planets?
  6. Did they ever find Bin Laden?
  7. Was buying Google at $445 a good idea?
  8. What the web of the future looks like?
  9. Does Google merge with Microsoft and end up taking over the world?
  10. Does all of Hollywood shrivel up and die from a strange disease that they didn’t anticipate happening, caused by Botox injections to the face?
  11. What its like to get to know my children as adults?
  12. Will I have grandchildren.. and if so, will they inherit my strangely shaped little toe; just as I inherited it from my father?
  13. Did global warming eventually destroy the earth?
  14. Will the sun change polarity in 2012 as prophesied by the Mayans?
  15. Does WWIII ever happen and who drops the bomb first.. and on who?
  16. Is the evolution vs creation debate ever, scientifically, settled?
  17. What happens to my husband… does he find love again? How does he cope with the loss?

…things like that – and so much more.

And if I don’t ever know those things.. will it matter? My frustration with this is solely an ‘earthly’ concern – – the thought that I would care about them after my death assumes a certain level of consciousness after death, I suppose….and, well…who knows? I guess it would be right to say that I don’t grieve or fear my death as much as I grieve the loss of the answers that ongoing life might bring.

I find myself to be curious, by nature – about most things. Things I am involved with, things I care about, things I know about – – directly or on the periphery – – how does it all resolve… and does it resolve – ever? These are things I want to know and death kind of interrupts that flow of knowledge, doesn’t it?

I am not a person of religion, and as such, am not settled on any ideas or notions of what happens after death. That concept is as much a curiosity to me as anything else. Perhaps if I were a religious person, the frustrations of this unsatisfied curiosity – – of not knowing how the story ends, would not unsettle me so much. Rather, I would be satisfied in the truth of my knowledge of what happens … such knowledge that comes with faith I do not possess. Such a faith is sometimes a thing to be envied in others, I feel. Not so much as to cause me to pursue it – – at times, however, I could see how that kind of…. complacency, I guess(?) … might be preferred over restless curiosity. Maybe complacency is not the right word – – I don’t want to offend and also didn’t want to get off on a religious bent here, so I won’t. If you have a better word for it, please freely correct me 🙂

I guess the best answer to my frustration is to stay curious, keep learning and share any knowledge and insight I may pick up along the way with my kids, so they can pick up the mantle of curiosity and be a part of the answers to those questions…. a part of the story.

At any rate.. I’m looking foward to reading Mr. Collins book. The fact that it opens with a quote that succinctly puts words to a string of thoughts that have been rattling around in my head makes me think that this book and I might be a good connection.

7 thoughts on “Unsatisfied Curiosity”

  1. Interesting thoughts… a bit heavy for the morning nevertheless 🙂 Anyhow, I’m pretty sure this is a question each and everybody has to find an answer to themselves…

  2. Great topic. I have this hallucination that when I die, whoever meets me (insert your religious pref. here) will sit down with me and answer all the questions. And I do have a lot of questions. But, like you, I wonder if those questions will no longer mean anything to me.

  3. I’m a Christian and believe in heaven and have hundreds of unanswered questions about death. What will it feel like when I leave my body and fly away? Will my relatives meet me (as I’ve heard some resuscitated people claim)? Will the people I know, work with, like (and maybe not like quite as well) be in my circle up there? What do streets of gold look like? What’s all this about the throne of God, seraphims,cherubims, and all that smoke?

    And the part about my body being resurrected? Will it just recompose (as opposed to decompose)? Will it still sweat and all that other stuff?

    So I also share that curiosity and read everything I can on the subject. There are some near-death stories posted on my website by people that are very interesting, and raise more questions than they answer.

    Wow, how’d you go from the Austin Conference to this? That’s quite an unexpected turn.

    (» Read Debbie’s last blog post..Did It Make A Believer Of Him?)

  4. I just now came across this post while looking for the origin of the “unsatisfied curiosity” quote, which I, too, first read in the Collins book. You have expressed exactly my sentiments. Although I would say that I am a religious person but do not have a fixed idea of what is beyond. Because I’m convinced that God is infinitely good, I trust that whatever awaits will be good – thus, my curiosity (an lack of anxiety) about it.

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