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The Significance of Curiosity

Frank Buckley laments that”there’s less interest now than in the past,” and has written a new book, Curiosity and its own Twelve Rules for Life, in an attempt to rectify the dearth. Whether this mission looks far afield to get an authorized academic, Buckley defies the traditional stereotype of a law professor. In addition to his substantial body of work, Buckley is a senior editor of the American Spectator, a columnist for the New York Post, and functioned as an advocate of and intermittent speech writer for the President that most academics like to hate, Donald Trump.

In light of his proven curiosity regarding a host of different subjects, Buckley’s foray into fascination is not surprising. He is a successful author and versatile scholar.  While teaching in George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School (since 1989), Buckley has composed numerous legal articles and publications on a variety of topics (such as a couple that I reviewed for Law & Liberty and everywhere ), ranging from a technical critique of the American legal system to some rumination on the possibility of secession.

His wide-ranging interests are on display in Curiosity and its own Twelve Rules for Life, which seems like a self-help book but isn’t.  In fact, Buckley makes it obvious at the outset that his book is not”Jordan Peterson’s twelve principles . Those were tips on how to endure and surmount the challenges of life in a gloomy and chilly climate.” Buckley explains his twelve rules of fascination, by comparison,”are intended for the spirited and fun-loving folks I met when I moved from Canada to the United States.” His book is not really a”rule book” at all. The first”principle” he discusses is”Don’t make rules”

Thus, just what is the purpose of the book? Following a year of pandemic-induced isolation, and in the wake of four years of escalating (and increasingly poisonous ) obsession with partisan politics, Buckley needs us all to look beyond connections, chaos, and societal media messaging to relish the”world of wonders” available for our”enjoyment and delight,” should we just open our eyes and permit our imaginations to research them. As a well-read and high tech (self indulgent ) boomer, and also having a younger audience in mind, Buckley functions as a tour guide to the world of wonder beckoning to the curious.

Buckley carries the reader on a whirlwind (and automatically abbreviated) poll of subjects that are not the traditional fare in undergraduate instruction or social networking. Buckley has a fascination with art history, and punctuates his narrative with vignettes about Gothic structure, Pre-Raphaelite painters, Hieronymus Bosch, and Aubrey Beardsley. Buckley also offers an interest for Blaise Pascal, whom he describes as one of those”greatest leaders of all time.” Pascal’s name pops up in almost every chapter, combined with–less often –Ludwig Wittgenstein, Immanuel Kant, Aristotle, John Stuart Mill, along with other philosophers.

But the book isn’t a sterile tract on philosophy–or history. Buckley tells stories about the philosophers, such as a recurring theme of Pascal’s defense against an austere Catholic sect known as the Jansenites against the powerful Jesuits. Occasionally accused of becoming an Anglophile due to his affection for the Parliamentary form of government, at Curiosity Buckley shows an appreciation of 20th century French intellectuals, particularly the existentialist Albert Camus, who had been influenced by Pascal. Buckley admires Camus because of Camus’s guts in breaking collaborators throughout the Nazi occupation of France during World War II, and in rejecting the trendy communism of his fellow intellectuals (like Jean-Paul Sartre) after the war. Buckley manages to make the anecdotes intriguing, not within baseball. Curiosity is an old-fashioned liberal arts instruction in a nutshellhumanities for the novice. 

Curiosity is structured as a collection of life courses (take risks, courtroom doubts, be first, show grit, be creative, don’t be smug, etc.) illustrated with examples drawn from Greek mythology, the Bible, Catholic theology, literary civilization, literature, and movies, humor, history (European, Canadian, and American), along with music.

Due to Buckley’s broad selection of knowledge, there’s something for everyone. The book is not without an occasional political apart, either. 

How can we become so incurious? Buckley claims that”We have placed all our processors on unpleasant ideologies that, by purporting to describe everything, instruct us to ignore inconvenient counterexamples…. Curiosity, which used to be a liberal virtue, is increasingly a conservative person, as progressives infect themselves into a distorted universe of secure lifestyles, intersectional sufferers, along with cartoon-like villains.” Buckley explains:

Over the extremes, Trump-haters along with Trump-lovers shriek beyond one another, like mad apes secured in a cage. In 2020, they made fascination about anything besides Black Lives Matter and also the pandemic appear sinful. They have attempted to reevaluate fault and risk the risk-taker for his neglect or toxic masculinity. They have escalated into incurious ideologies and sour partisanships that allow them to ignore the injuries imposed on others…. But it cannot last. However worthy you may think that the progressives’ causes, they will give you in time, unless you are completely with no flicker of curiosity.

Nobody needs to be more curious than the youthful, but they’ve been betrayed by America’s schools, which will be where curiosity goes to expire. Curious folks want the freedom to experiment with new ideas, as you might try on fresh ties prior to a mirror. That is not likely to take place if the awakened authorities stand ready to pounce on any deviation from their radical orthodoxy. Victimhood has been weaponized and turned into a tool of oppression from the flint-eyed progressives on campus and their enablers on faculty administrative personnel.

By way of instance, he avers that”viewers of CNN and MSNBC appear to have experienced the fascination gene eliminated , so insistent will be the politics”  Curiousity is often amusing and always a joy to see.

An entire generation has been scarred by pandemic-related hysteria. Curiosity provides a tonic for its spiritual doldrums.At exactly the same moment, Buckley soberly reflects to a serious subject that curious men and women should not be scared to face the possibility of their own mortality. He says that”the reduction of religious awe and also a transcendent vision of life and death has caused a banal tradition of minimalist worries and politicized art and literature. Fantastic art is made by those who are interested in exactly what happens when life ends or of this sense to be made from life should they believe nothing “

Buckley devotes the final chapters of the book to his final”principle”–one that aging boomers will soon encounter: Realize you’re knocking on heaven’s door:

We have seen Facebook accounts proceed dim and old friends… go the way of all flesh, and we’re starting to understand that the same thing will happen to people. I expect a curiosity about what happens upon death as well as a new religious awakening. And that is my generation’s final gift to the Zeitgeist. Following the drugs and sex and rock roll, after undergoing every old vice and inventing a few new ones, just 1 thing stays, and that’s a religious revival and a return to traditional morality.

Buckley ends the book with those poignant words:

Our civilization asks us to anesthetize our fascination on what awaits us about departure…. Even as God made Eve curious, I think that the incuriosity of modernity will finally prove unsatisfying. We had been created as curious beings and will always find answers, particularly to the most basic questions of our existence. And this, more than anything, is why fascination things.

Mortality may be a grim issue for reflection, however Buckley’s treatment of it ends on a hopeful note. The past year was stressful and tumultuous for many Americans. Strife, isolation, and anxiety took a toll on the individual condition, causing lots of people to act fearful, fearful, and lonely. An entire generation has been scarred by pandemic-related hysteria. Curiosity provides a tonic for the spiritual doldrums. In 2020, we learned exactly how much our health, our joy, our sanity, is based upon it…. There is just 1 way from the insanity, and that was to let our fascination take us by the hands and lead us”