I wonder what influenced Christopher Columbus to embark the Santa Maria, lead his ship through treacherous waters without any map, and do all of this with the misguided self-assurance that he sailed towards a mystical land called India. Maybe he did it to win honor and glory for himself. Perhaps he did it, as some have suggested, to convert and enslave the natives for his own purposes. Certainly he did it because of simple curiosity—the simplest of all human emotions.
I have always been curious for as long as I can remember. I was in awe when I first read Don Rosa’s comic book The Life and Times of Scrooge McDuck in elementary school. It immediately stirred the desire in me to see and learn about the world and its beauty. Like the stingy duck, I wanted to journey to Java to ride the majestic “Cutty Sark”, observe the annual bull race on the Madura Island, and witness, from a safe distance of course, the disastrous eruption of Krakatau. I wanted to dig for underground treasurers in Yukon, find a gold nugget as big as an ostrich’s egg, and see a silent valley untouched by human advancement and the teeth of time.
It was in this inquisitive state of mine when our television set disappeared out of nowhere. My parents assumed that someone must have stolen it. We would buy a new television, and for them, the whole matter was settled. This event, however, piqued my curiosity and I soon set out to find where our television had wound up. I imagined myself to be an explorer in search of the known in an unknown place. After weeks of fighting through an ocean of stinging nettles and throngs of mosquitoes that must have plagued Columbus himself, I finally sighted my own land—my TV. From this event, I learned that curiosity is crucial to accomplishment.
Admittedly, my curiosity has not always served me well. One time, for example, a friend and I dug a meter deep ditch and covered it with branches and a layer of leaves and soil to see if someone would fall into it. Fortunately, no one did. Another time, I used my dad’s shaver to shave a non-existent beard to see what would happen. “What were you thinking”, my parents asked.
“I was curious, just curious”, I responded.
As I grew up, however, my childish curiosity gave way for a curiosity in other countries. Just as this simple emotion had moved Columbus, Scrooge, and my younger self to explore, it now moves me to explore different cultures and international problems on our planet. Only through my curiosity was I able to learn more about different traditions and look beyond common stereotypes. I believe that curiosity is a worthy attribute inextricable from making not only groundbreaking discoveries in the fields of science and archeology but also from understanding and crossing cultural barriers.
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