When I attended Princeton Theological Seminary, one of the first things I was warned abut were the legendary “Black Squirrels.” The story told at the Seminary was that these were the result of experiments at the Institute for Advanced Study, a world-class ‘think-tank” most known because of its relationship with Albert Einstein, who taught at the Institute from 1933-1955.
Now I had been on plenty of “Snipe Hunts” in Boy Scouts, so I was naturally suspicious of any story about genetically enhanced squirrels. The truth is, black and gray squirrels are quite common throughout the Northeast, and there just happens to be an abundance of them at Princeton.
But the urban legend did pique my curiosity, and maybe that’s the point. Abraham Flexner, the founder of the Institute for Advanced Study once wrote, “Most of the great discoveries beneficial to humanity were made by men and women driven not by the desire to be useful but merely the desire to satisfy their curiosity.” This was the purpose of the Institute; to foster curiosity and the pursuit of knowledge, regardless of the “immediate utility” of that knowledge. In fact, Albert Einstein himself, he who proposed the theory of relativity which has shaped our understanding of the way the universe works, once said, “I have no special talent. I am only passionately curious.”
Today we have more information readily available at our fingertips than any other generation that has ever lived. No longer do you need a bookshelf full of Encyclopedias (which are out of date as soon as they are printed), you have the vast wealth of knowledge on the internet. Google has made the advancement of knowledge accessible to anyone willing to start a search.
But how much of this is wasted? There are YouTube videos that show the engineering genius and scientific complexity that came together to put a man on the moon, but we spend our time watching cat videos and viral dance trends. We have access to the great works of literature, free for the reading, but we’d rather scroll through memes and .gifs. The real threat of TikTok is not foreign hacking, but being drowned in vapid, meaningless, and mind-numbing nonsense.
Friends, be curious about the world around you. We live in a wondrous world, full of beauty, power, and glory. The history of humanity is full of trouble and triumph. The great literature of the world provides a glimpse into the journey of the human story. The sciences help us to understand how all things work together. What a shame it would be to go through this life without any curiosity.
Be curious. Become an avid reader, not for assignments or reports, but just for the enjoyment of it. Read histories, biographies, classics, and even new works of fiction. Stop and consider the night sky; marvel at the stars, planets, and galaxies that make up this wondrous universe. Be curious about how things work, the nature of relationships, why things happen the way they do. Ask a lot of questions.
Curiosity is Biblical. Ecclesiastes 3:11 says, “God has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart, yet so that he cannot find out what God has done from the beginning to the end.”
Curiosity is encoded in our hearts, we have been designed to search out the truth and pursue wisdom and knowledge. Man is the only creature to walk upright, and to have his eyes gazing upward into the heavens. Adam’s first job was to name the animals of God’s creation, to order all things and have dominion over them. There is built within us a natural sense of wonder and curiosity. Feed it.
Proverbs 4:5–6 says, “Get wisdom; get insight; do not forget, and do not turn away from the words of my mouth. Do not forsake her, and she will keep you; love her, and she will guard you.”
God has designed us to know Him. He has revealed his power in creation, and His love, goodness, and wisdom in his care for His creation. Our purpose in life is to seek Him out, to know Him more, and to walk in the wisdom that comes from Him.