If you ask why incessantly, something strange starts to happen to you. You begin to notice the nuances and subtleness of the creation and life. Your eyes, ears, and senses open up to new sources of insight about what is happening inside and outside you.
There is no secret or formula to happiness or even success. Curiosity can help you achieve those goals, but curiosity can also bring anxiety, doubt, and apathy if not coached well. When paired with ethical empathy, curiosity is the root of actual paths to concepts such as happiness or well-being.
Unceasingly and insanely, always pursuing root causes, hows, whys, whens, and wheres will overcome generational trauma and an individual’s perceived limitations. Curiosity is a gift from God meant to wake us up to the way of intentional being.
Stoicism teaches us (me, at least) that virtue is the only good and that our characters are entirely in our power to shape and improve. In this context, curiosity becomes a tool for self-improvement and understanding the world. It aligns with the Stoic principle of living according to nature (where we derive the word physics), which involves understanding the nature of the universe and our roles.
Consider this quote from Marcus Aurelius:
“Look within. Within is the fountain of good; it will ever bubble up if thou wilt dig.”
This highlights the Stoic belief in introspection and self-awareness nurtured by curiosity.
Ethical empathy, in Stoicism, is closely tied to sympatheia, the mutual interdependence of all things in the universe. The Stoics believed that realizing this interconnectedness leads to a natural inclination to act virtuously and empathetically toward others.
Here’s a thought from Seneca that encapsulates this idea:
“We are members of one great body planted by nature. We must be helpful to one another, remembering that we were born for cooperation, like feet, hands, eyelids, and the rows of the upper and lower teeth.”
Therefore, when guided by the principles of Stoic virtue, curiosity transforms from mere inquisitiveness into a tool for personal and ethical growth. Through this lens, we begin to see the subtleties of life not just as isolated phenomena but as interconnected parts of a greater whole. This perspective fosters a deeper understanding and appreciation of life’s complexities, allowing us to find joy and contentment in pursuing knowledge and wisdom.
However, without ethical empathy, curiosity risks becoming a self-centered pursuit, detached from the greater good of humanity. The Stoics remind us that our actions and inquiries should not only serve personal growth but also contribute to the welfare of others. As Epictetus said,
“What ought one to say then as each hardship comes? I was practicing for this. I was training for this.”
Thus, curiosity becomes a form of life training, preparing us to face challenges with resilience and empathy.
Curiosity and ethical empathy, when aligned with Stoic virtues, curiosity, and ethical empathy lead us to a deeper understanding of the world and toward a more fulfilling and meaningful existence. They awaken us to the potential within ourselves and encourage us to live in harmony with others and the world.
I uploaded this post into ChatGPT-4 and asked DALL-E to create an image reflecting my words and the concept of curiosity related to ethical empathy and Stoicism. I think it did rather well! If you have no idea what any of that means, that’s ok… but you will soon!