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Inquiring Success through Stories: "Curiouser & Curiouser"

Shannon's picture

We as humans are unbelievably diversified. Each of us spawns from different races, socio-economic statuses, and regions of the world. We speak thousands of independent languages and have established ways of life. Biologically speaking, one person’s specific arrangement of genes makes him individually unique in the world. We are highly specialized people who strive to surmount the challenges presented by the world and attain new goals. What is the unconscious motivation that drives us to achieve our goals, gain knowledge, and discover new things? Despite the realization that each person is biologically distinct, the guarantee of man’s progress on Earth rests on the boundless leverage of curiosity. Inquisitiveness, in coalition with imagination, may prove unkind at times through the decisions we make in life, but they are useful scientific and literary tools. One of the motifs in Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland is steadfast curiosity, as he unfolds the tale of a young girl who gains maturity and valuable insights of the world via her fantastical imagination. Curiosity may have killed the (Chesire) cat, but it is an essential attribute to possess when striving for success in both the sciences and humanities.

Lewis Carroll unintentionally spoke volumes about human nature when he wrote Alice’s infamous dialogue, "Curiouser and curiouser!" as her reaction to the ridiculousness occurring in Wonderland. Surely this was not Carroll’s main vision, but innocent Alice attains the role of an everyday scientist investigating the new variables & characters in her world. Alice fosters personal growth from each new situation; she becomes frustrated as she tries to make sense of the illogical world. Nonetheless, her fictitious dreamland allures her. Alice’s innate curiosity (her human nature) & creativity fuel her fun adventures (with the rabbit, Cheshire cat, Mad Hatter, and Queen of Hearts) and allow her to make generative summaries of observations about the world around her.

We have embraced (but not necessarily accepted as truth) the notion that all people, whether living or fictitious, are scientists in some way. Scientists in reality use their persistent curiosity to conduct research and experiments. Well-known physicists (Alexander Flemming), biologists (Gregory Mendel), and inventors (Alexander Grahm Bell) have and continue to abandon their fear of failure to transform the world with their ambitious minds and intellectual discoveries. Bearing the courage to accept their experimental mishaps or lack of observations (as science thrives on the diversity of styles and techniques), they possess an eternal thirst for knowledge. Charged by their intuition and the desire to improve, scientists use their imaginations to manipulate variables in hopes of making the results "less wrong". Science would not be successful without the curious yet focused imagination. It is a paramount part of exploration… the who, what, where, when, and why of it all. In the words of the great Albert Einstein, “I have no special talents, I am only passionately curious…Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.”

In the humanities (specifically literature for simplicity's sake), writers and readers are “passionately curious”. Writers exercise their focused imaginations to concoct strategic plot lines, characters, and themes for their readers’ enjoyment. Will this character be static or dynamic, and how will it universally relate to society? What symbols should be expressed through descriptive language? Will the ending be definite or ambiguous after the climax? Thousands of questions plague the minds of writers, but their innovative curiosity evolves their inquiries into successful stories. They do not write their books in one day, just as scientists can not successfully obtain generative information from one experiment alone. They take “rest periods” from their focus so to spark fresh visions and persistently return to the “drawing board” after several revisions. According to Lewis Carroll, “An author doesn't necessarily understand the meaning of his own story better than anyone else”. The author can be the creator of a piece that can be interpreted in copious ways, or he could project clear purpose in his work. It is up to the author’s free will and “burning curiosity” (to use the term that Carroll frequently writes in Alice in Wonderland).

Additionally, the reader is as equally curious as the writer. A reader chooses a book based on his passionate curiosity. Whether he strives to fulfill his desire for mystery or adventure, specific literary genres entice readers by appealing to their imaginative curiosities. Where are the villains taking the damsel in distress? How do the clues relate to the murder suspects? It is a trigger in the author's choice of title or the "plug" on the back cover, the nature of the characters, the setting, or the suspenseful language that make the reader persist in grasping new literary knowledge. NBC’s Today Show co-host Maria Celeste Arraras admits, “I, [as a reader], have always been curious, curious and hungry for the story.” The ingredients of a story provoke interest; they spark unconscious interest to finish a literary work.

The dominant characteristics of imagination and curiosity flourish in both the sciences and the humanities. They rest equally in fields such as nuclear chemistry and genres like children’s literature. In Disney’s Alice in Wonderland movie, Alice says, “Curiosity can often lead to trouble.” Knowledge-seekers, however, will claim, “curiosity is the very basis of education and if [one says] that curiosity killed the cat, [it can be said] only the cat died nobly” (Albert Einstein).

With worthy goals of producing fertile results, everyday scientists and experts in the field persistently unlock a chest of limitless opportunities to secure new observations and discover the unknown. They remain focused on their endeavors, but they know their hunger will never be completely satisfied. There will always be uncharted waters and untold stories. After all, “the most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science” (Albert Einstein).

Works Cited

Arraras, Maria Celeste. Televisión host. 14 March 2007.

Carroll, Lewis. Author. 14 March 2007.

Einstein, Albert. Scientist. 14 March 2007.