Curiosity & Living on the Edge

Curiosity is a perplexing and arguably defining characteristic of human beings.

Nando released a furniture piece that I think plays on the idea of curiosity and the human attraction to a challenge. Simple to look at but so curiously engaging, it takes advantage our own curiosity and we are compelled to interact with it. The chair looks like it’s an impossibly constructed decor, and by sitting on it, it would surely fail. Aptly named ‘Float’, it dares us to try and sit on it and test its durability.

Float by Nando

So what is it that makes people curious and why has it become a reason to do silly or life threatening things? Control is a fundamental element of sustaining life and maintaining sanity. Knowing this however, people still have a desire to tread that line of control and peer over the edge of uncertainty. This is human curiosity. We have the freedom of knowing that ultimately we can do what we want. This seems contradictory though. We have discussed the idea that we as humans strive to control and seek to maintain order. But knowing that something is dangerous or challenging only makes us even more susceptible to partaking in such activities.

Maybe the reason why humans put themselves through such challenges is because it’s a form of practice. So we can ponder and maybe learn more about something in the world. Sidrah Zaheer on the website “Wisdom Commons” said that, “The curiosity about one’s self and the environment leads a person to investigate and with the help of his findings draw adequate inferences. It guides him to attain his desires and goals in life, to create a vision and to dream.” He goes on to suggest that it is curiosity that compels us to challenge ourselves and shape our understanding of our own lives. This curiosity is deeply connected to our theme of purpose and the human desire to search for meaning.

Curiosity also takes us down some pretty dark and disturbing paths. Michael Stevens from the Youtube channel ‘Vsauce’ dives into this very interesting topic in his video called ‘Why Are We Morbidly Curiosity?’He states that we humans like disturbing and challenging things because we like to S.C.R.E.A.M. – things that give us strength, catharsis, reality, exploration, acceptance and meaning. It’s a bit strange that we would be attracted to such things, but it is part of what keeps us alive. We become more alert and attentive when we are scared.

One of the chemicals released in our brain when we are frightened is Dopamine. Interestingly enough, dopamine is considered the part of our brain’s reward system. It makes us feel good. That explains why adrenaline junkies are so hooked on doing frightening and scary activities. On a less extreme scale, it explains why we ourselves sometimes enjoy living on the edge. Being daring and spontaneous. Circling back to the topic of morbid curiosity, why then are we drawn to such disturbing things like the Macabre. Michael Stevens points out in his video “Just because you want to do something, doesn’t mean you like it.” It doesn’t mean we find disturbing things pleasurable. It could be because we are imagining what it would be like to be that other person or thing. We’re empathising with the subject.

The addictive nature of dopamine could be what makes us so curious. Curiosity makes us do, think and say some pretty crazy things, but it’s that we create in our own minds when we see or do radical things. We need to know that we are in control of our own curiosity. Following our curious desires allows us to think deeper into life’s uncertainties and explore the world that could be.