The much-applauded landing of the roving Mars Science Laboratory (a.k.a Curiosity) has gotten me started thinking about the sorry state of curiosity in modern society.
Sure, there are still explorers and inventors among us; but a dismaying percentage of our forays into curiosity tend to be frivolous ("TomKat's former dry cleaner: does he have as many zombies in his family tree as Brangelina's podiatrist?") or self-destructive, involving how many red lights we can run, how many hot dogs we can gobble down or how many antibiotics we haven't tried on our STDs yet. ("Hmmm...I wonder how many marbles I can cram up my nose. And since there's mucous involved, could I get it federally subsidized as a green project?")
An unfortunate combination of smugness, inertia and prejudice has trapped us in a prison of willful ignorance. I'd like to see curiosity spurring us on toward some laudable goals of self-improvement, empathy and the betterment of mankind.
Imagine the impact if just one young man would pause for a moment to extend the challenge, "Fellas, I've heard rumors that there are mythical Americans who can actually maintain style and identity WITHOUT showing their underwear to the world. Do you suppose we could try walking a mile in their moccasins?"
I'd like to see even one Hollywood scribe think to himself, "I've heard that millions of Americans somehow live out satisfying lives without even ONCE writing a sitcom script containing gratuitous quips about a heterosexual character's girl-on-girl college experimentation. Maybe..."
What if a few more self-absorbed parents-to-be scratched their heads and wondered, "John, honey, do you suppose there's anything in your late parents' diaries that would reveal just HOW they managed to pick a baby name that didn't saddle you with a lifetime of causing spellchecks to self-destruct?"
Isn't it time that a corporate board of directors really thought outside the box? ("We COULD hire another cookie-cutter executive and pay him 100 times what the people under him are making...or we could hire a partially trained chimpanzee and let HIM rubber-stamp outsourcing orders, fling bribes at officials and cover his eyes to environmental violations.")
Could curiosity force a few armchair theologians to venture out and seek EYEWITNESS VERIFICATION of the hordes of hypocrites who are supposedly spilling off the pews of every single church in the country? You know, the hypocrites who (darn it!) block these guys from participating in organized religion.
The possibilities for altering attitudes, questioning habits and changing antisocial behavior are endless. When we encounter someone with different values and priorities, we tend to shrug our shoulders, cluck our tongues and sigh "There's no accounting for taste" — instead of trying to understand How The Other Half Lives or trying to wrap our minds around how someone else can possibly survive without our custom blend of luxuries and vices.
Let's stop letting curiosity kill the cat. Let curiosity kill the dumb behavior.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I want to indulge my own curiosity. I'm anxious to see just how long Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid can go without sharing his new rationale for pro-choice policies. ("You didn't hear it from me, but a little birdie tells me that these fetuses haven't paid income tax in the past 10 years!")
Copyright 2012 Danny Tyree. Danny welcomes reader e-mail responses at firstname.lastname@example.org and visits to his Facebook fan page "Tyree's Tyrades". Danny's' weekly column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate.