I am struggling with writer’s block. For that reason I am just making myself write. I am trying to find the sewage that has clogged up my thoughts and flush it out. So I am just typing and typing, as if I was standing over a rank and rising toilet with a plunger, hoping my energetic arm action would eventually suck up the miscreant and let everything flow efficiently again. Not that my mind ever flows particularly efficiently. So count this blog post on curiosity as nothing but an exercise in plumbing.
I like to imagine that if humans can generate a question then there is some possibility of eventually coming up with an answer. When I read that Pope John Paul II, while accepting that the theory of evolution by natural selection now had enough evidence accrued that the vatican would accept it, but that the human mind was beyond the realm of science, I thought “why?”. Why should consciousness and all that self regarding hullabaloo remain too difficult? Given enough time, probably more time than we might have as a living species, couldn’t theory, experiment and observation eventually get us to, if not a conclusion, an effective working hypothesis.
Are we hindered by each generation reckoning it is some sort of pinnacle and, if it is unable to even imagine the tools required, then the answer is unreachable. Then, there is the “this question is beyond our understanding, therefore it must mean that the answer is something mythical”, though that doesn’t seem to work at all for me as, if it is meant to be beyond our understanding, how can we so easily understand it if we just call in something unobservable as the answer.
So many thinking games are just carousels for us to find away of dizzily coming up with the answer that fits our worldview. Accepting our shortcomings doesn’t mean we must immediately imagine some far greater beast did it all. Maybe we just aren’t equipped with the patience to wait and work towards too many answers about the cosmos, like the journalist who wrote, “if scientists are so good, how come they haven’t even worked out how the universe began?” Sometimes I wonder what is the use of being curious if it is for no other reason than its own sake.
Why do I have so many books on so many subjects? Why do I wish to confound myself each day and confront the inadequacy of my mind when it comes to mathematics, physics, philosophy, mending things, and cookery beyond an omelette (my risotto is also passable if I avoid sudden spasms of ludicrous experimentation). My curiousity is just a hobby. Others have football or battle re-enactment, I have my nose in a book.
I see people far smarter than I am, and they seem cocksure in their inquisitiveness. I wonder if my mind was just a little better I’d be over some horizon into a contented and confident book lined club where Will Self and AC Grayling are comfortably wise. I find myself floundering in a vale where the happily ignorant and opinionated dance and carouse to the left of me, and the intellectuals smoke their opium pipes and nibble on their canapes while dissecting the vowels of a sentence beyond my comprehension.
As my shows aim to become more celebratory and positive, I wonder if I have spent all my optimism in those two hours of hyperkinetic enthusiasm, leaving the solitary, offstage me shrugging and perplexed. Maybe I should make my shows coldly cynical, then this will be counterbalanced with a giddy offstage countenance?
Pragmatically, is there an advantage to non-professional curiosity? What are the benefits? Hopefully reading up on the human brain may help me understand my 6 year old son’s erratic judgement, the decision making of my enemies, the tantrums of my own mind. Maybe reading Pale Blue Dot and mulling over the possibly paucity of complex living organisms in the universe may aid my political decision making, as well as my decision making when it comes to both number of offspring and switching off the lights, though I might find myself handled powerful ammunition to judge others whilst never pointing the torpedoes at myself? All that reading about war and battle strategy that has occupied so many men’s time and, despite it all, it remains a messy business, even if the casualties have predominantly been swapped from soldiers to civilians.
Maybe curiosity, like philosophy, is just a way of preparing for death, of finding a meaning in this finite existence. Perhaps the benefits of my curiosity are slight, but it is something to do and it makes the brief experience of being alive more exciting, even fulfilling. Pondering the unlikelihood of existence, knowing that you have an ability to question why things are as they are, even though you know you’ll still die without the answers to most things, helps it all move along. Would you rather be a Lamprey, unaware of its existence, or all those other creatures that twitch and recoil and flutter their cilia before being digested in the gutter of a bigger and cleverer monster? Well if you would rather be that, then you’d rather not be at all.
off to Birmingham, Salford, Bromsgrove, London, Leeds and many more. Details HERE
also Mark Steel will be joining Michael Legge and I for our angry show at Comedy cafe on 1st April.