I was out for a walk with the kiddo and the pupper recently when I saw something that I forgot I hadn’t seen in a long time: A child was out on her own, exploring her neighborhood. She may have been around 8 or 9, I don’t know; I’m really bad at that.
When I was a kid, I used to grab my baseball glove and hockey stick, hop on my bike, and go meet up with James and Jason and Gerry and sometimes other kids and we’d play some pickup baseball at the elementary school (the had a large yard) and pickup street hockey at the Catholic school (they had a fire escape that was the perfect for a goal) and maybe we’d run down to the drug store for a candy bar and a soda and wander down the railroad tracks to see what was going on in the woods near the river.
We weren’t just out having fun, we were exploring our world. We were curious. Yes, we visited libraries. Yes, we read books. Yes, we’d watch movies. But the world outside was so much cooler than all the representative worlds we knew.
You don’t actually learn about frogs from Frogger. You learn about frogs from watching them, listening to them, picking them up and putting them down (and maybe dissecting them, but our 8-year-old selves weren’t sociopaths).
We’re in a much different world now. You can learn everything about frogs on your telephone. Right now you can only get descriptions of what they feel like and how they smell and how they taste, but I’ll bet we’re not too far behind at least one or two of those catching up with how they look and how they sound, which we can actually get very good representatives of in our pockets.
We might still take apart toasters or radios or whatever, but by and large, curiosity has come into the house and online. There’s no real need to explore the world around us. But aren’t we so much more interesting if we do explore?
But maybe I’d been traveling in the wrong circles, since there are clearly a lot of people who are curious about not just the world, but the universe. There are people interested in outer space and inner brains, in coffee and mushrooms and mountains and waves and cars and pandas and language and atoms.
And the people who are doing the most interesting stuff don’t spend most of their time looking at a screen; they go out and discover.
Get curious. Explore. Turn off your computer and get outside. Notice stuff. Wonder about it. Go.