Barbara Emrys


I am curious. I have a feeling we were all born to be curious, but we lose our curiosity when it looks like we’ve accumulated all the knowledge we will ever really need. That usually happens within our first four years of life. I still have a little curiosity left, I guess, but it has grown shy of predictable things. It has grown shy of scripted conversations and automatic reflexes. It has grown shy of reasonable arguments, of good intentions and deep sincerity. It has grown shy, in other words, of me.

People have always said I am honest and sincere. People have always admired my keen sense of common sense. Then again, people say things without knowing what they are saying. I mean that – sincerely. No one knows me. I cannot claim to know anyone else. Whatever I may believe someone to be, I believe it for my own reasons. I used to believe it for the sake of my own vanities. Scandalous. I imagined people the way I wanted them to be, and was dismayed when they disillusioned me. There may be nothing more scandalous than to fall short of another person’s expectations. There may be no greater crime than to veer from the path that others see us taking, or to assume an identity that contradicts the image that others have of us. Most criminal of all is act of contradicting the image by which we have long defined ourselves.

And yet, in time I dispelled my own image, which was born of opinion, assumption and the least possible amount of self-reflection. This image came to me through knowledge. Everything I was and everything I used to do was founded on the shifting sands of what I thought I knew. If real awareness is a garden of wonders, you could say that the image I had of myself was built upon a vast desert. So I accumulated all the knowledge my mind could support, and then I put my mind to the task of making knowledge irrelevant. I did it for the sake of the garden. And I did it because I was curious.

A scientist is someone who uses language to pursue the truth. That impulse is driven by curiosity. With what little curiosity still remained from childhood, I long ago embarked on a new career as a scientist. I dedicated my life to the pursuit of truth – which, curiously, also required an understanding of symbols. More importantly, it required the courage to transcend the power of symbols. If you don’t know what I mean, you might want to start a new career as well. If you don’t know what I mean, you have been mesmerized too long.

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