…so many people live within unhappy circumstances and yet will not take the initiative to change their situation because they are conditioned to a life of security, conformity, and conservatism, all of which may appear to give one peace of mind, but in reality nothing is more damaging to the adventurous spirit within a man than a secure future. The very basic core of a man’s living spirit is his passion for adventure.The reason that quote really grabbed me was because it both fits me — I'm definitely a non-conformist, a mostly carefree person without worries, and not a conservative in any sense — but at the same time, I would not describe myself as adventurous. Certainly not adventurous to the degree that Chris McCandless was, and really not even adventurous by more modest standards.
So how is it that I manage to feel secure (without worries, not anxious, carefree)... even though I would not describe myself as adventurous?
And that is what made me realize that I need to write up something about the etymologies of the words in English that come from Latin CURA because the paradoxical array of meanings in English go back to that Latin word.
So, the Latin word CURA is a noun, and its basic meaning is "care, thought, concern," and much like those English words, Latin CURA can cover a wide range of experiences, from negative (trouble, worry, anxiety) to positive (care, attention, diligence). It was a very common word in Latin, and you can get a sense of the range of meaning in this detailed Latin-English dictionary online: cura.
Here, then, are some of the English words that come from Latin cura:
CURE: from Latin cura, in the sense of "to care" for something. We are used to the medical sense of the word now, but it originally had a spiritual sense, as you can see in the noun "curate," someone whose duty is the cure of souls. The noun "curator" has a more secular sense; to "curate" something is to care for it, to act as a keeper or guardian.
SECURE: from Latin se-cura, without cura, so "secure" means without concern, without worry, without care, carefree (but not careless). From this adjective, we get the noun "security." (This is also parallel to the English word "sinecure," from Latin sine cura, meaning without care, in the sense of without care or responsibility.)
CURIOUS: from Latin curiosus, meaning "full of care, full of concern" which now has a positive meaning in the sense of "eager to know, inquisitive" but it originally had the negative sense of "cautious, anxious, fastidious." From this adjective, we get the noun "curiosity." In the early 18th-century "curious" also came to mean a thing that "excites curiosity," which is why a person can be curious (eager to know), but things can also be curious (strange, odd, etc.). The English word "curio," a rare or unusual object, is a 19th-century abbreviation of "curiosity," in the sense of an object that excites curiosity.
So, back to Maha's post and the question of security and adventure. While I would not call myself an adventurer, I am absolutely a curious person. In fact, curiosity might even be my dominant character trait, stronger than just about anything else. I am curious about pretty much EVERYTHING. And, just as the proverb warns us, "curiosity killed the cat," I could conceivably get into trouble because of my curiosity... not because I am a thrill-seeker, not because I am even a risk-taker... but because my curiosity is really unlimited!
But here's something about that proverb: in its older form it was "care killed the cat," in the sense of worry, anxiety, etc. See, for example, Shakespeare in Much Ado about Nothing: "What, courage man! what though care killed a cat, thou hast mettle enough in thee to kill care." So, in the original sense, the proverb was about a scaredy-cat, a worried cat, an anxious cat. A cat who is insecure, not a cat who is curious.
I am NOT a cat who is full of care in the sense of worry or anxiety. Instead, I am a curious cat. Cats do come in both varieties, as everyone has seen: scaredy-cats and curious ones. That contrast came up in an earlier post where I shared two of my Latin LOLCats, one for fear and one for fearlessness.
In the end, then, my etymological diagnosis is this: security is not something of paramount importance to me, but curiosity is a driving force in my life. Given a choice between being full of cura (curious) and without cura (secure), I will choose curiosity over security every time.
I'm not sure this really gives me any insight into why my colleagues can remain so un-curious about connected learning, but at least it helps me sort out just what kind of cura I really care about in my own life!
Of course, curiosity does cut both ways, and here are two very opposite Polish proverbs on that subject: as you can see, curiosity is not universally approved, proverbially speaking. :-)
Without curiosity, there is no wisdom.
(Polish: Bez ciekawości nie ma mądrości.)
From the Proverb Laboratory.
Curiosity is the first step to hell.
(Polish: Ciekawość pierwszy stopień do piekła.)
From the Proverb Laboratory.