Categories
News

The Value of Curiosity

Curiosity was once thought to be, in the words of English historian G.M. Trevelyan,”the life blood of real civilization.” Frank Buckley laments that”there is less interest now than before,” and has written a new book, Curiosity and its own Twelve Rules for Life, in an attempt to rectify the dearth. Whether this mission seems far afield for a legal academic, Buckley defies the traditional stereotype of a law professor. Along with his considerable body of scholarly work, Buckley is currently a senior editor of the American Spectator, a columnist for the New York Post, and served as an advocate of and intermittent speech writer for the President that many academics like to hate, Donald Trump.
In light of the exhibited curiosity regarding a plethora of different subjects, Buckley’s foray into fascination is not surprising. He’s a prolific author and flexible scholar.  While teaching at George Mason University’s Antonin Scalia Law School (since 1989), Buckley has composed several legal articles and books on a variety of subjects (including a few that I reviewed for Law & Liberty and elsewhere), which range from a technical critique of the legal system into some rumination about the potential for secession. Truly eclectic, Buckley was educated (and holds dual citizenship) from Canada and the U.S., helped run the economics and law program at George Mason for over a decade, and has educated at the Sorbonne.
His wide-ranging pursuits are on screen in Curiosity and its own Twelve Rules for Life, that sounds like a self explanatory book but isn’t.  In fact, Buckley makes it obvious at the beginning that his book is not”Jordan Peterson’s twelve principles for lifetime. Those were tips about how to endure and surmount the challenges of life in a gloomy and chilly climate” Buckley explains that his twelve principles of fascination, in contrast,”are meant for the more spirited and fun-loving people I met when I moved from Canada into the United States.” His book is not actually a”rule book” whatsoever. The first”principle” he discusses is”Do not make rules.”
So, what exactly is the purpose of this book? After a year of pandemic-induced isolation, and in the aftermath of four years of escalating (and increasingly poisonous ) obsession with partisan politics, Buckley desires us to look beyond connections, chaos, and societal media messaging to relish the”world of wonders” available for our”enjoyment and pleasure,” when we simply open our eyes and permit our imaginations to explore them. As a well-read and high tech (self-described) boomer, along having a younger crowd in mind, Buckley functions as a tour guide to the world of wonder beckoning into the curious.
Buckley takes the reader on a whirlwind (and necessarily abbreviated) survey of subjects which aren’t the standard fare in undergraduate instruction or popular media. The tour begins with the cover art, which features The Boyhood of Raleigh (1870) by John Everett Millais. Buckley also includes an interest for Blaise Pascal, whom he describes as one of the”greatest leaders of all time.”
But the book isn’t a dry tract on doctrine –or history. Buckley tells stories concerning the philosophers, such as a recurring theme of Pascal’s defense of the austere Catholic sect known as the Jansenites against the powerful Jesuits. Sometimes accused of being an Anglophile because of his affection to the form of government, in Curiosity Buckley displays a appreciation of 20th century French intellectuals, notably the existentialist Albert Camus, who was affected by Pascal. Buckley admires Camus because of Camus’s courage in breaking with collaborators throughout the Nazi occupation of France during World War II, and in rejecting the fashionable communism of the fellow intellectuals (such as Jean-Paul Sartre) after the war. Buckley manages to create the anecdotes intriguing, not inside baseball. Curiosity is a old-fashioned liberal arts instruction in a nutshell–humanities for the newcomer. 
Buckley’s erudite treatment of those issues is richly reminiscent of William Bennett’s virtue-building primers from the 1990s, albeit for a more complex college-age (or old ) audience–fatherly advice for a happy and satisfying adulthood.
Owing to Buckley’s broad selection of understanding, there is something for everyone. The book is not without an occasional governmental aside, possibly. 
How can we become so incurious? Buckley asserts that”We’ve put our processors on harsh ideologies that, by purporting to explain everything, instruct us to ignore inconvenient counterexamples…. Curiosity, that used to be a liberal merit, is a conservative person, as progressives bury themselves into a twisted world of secure lives, intersectional sufferers, along with cartoon-like villains.” Buckley describes:
Over the extremes, Trump-haters along with Trump-lovers shriek past one another, like furious apes secured in a cage. In 2020, they left fascination about anything aside from Black Lives Issue and also the pandemic appear sinful. They have attempted to reevaluate risk and fault the risk-taker for his neglect or poisonous masculinity. They’ve descended into incurious ideologies and bitter partisanships that let them ignore the injuries imposed on other people…. But it cannot last. Nevertheless worthy you might think that the progressives’ causes, they will give you in time, unless you are completely without a flicker of curiosity.
Buckley also has something to say about the condition of higher education:
No one should be more interested than the youthful, but they have been betrayed by America’s schools, which will be where curiosity goes to die. Curious men and women need the freedom to experiment with new ideas, as one may try on new ties before a mirror. That is not going to take place if the awakened authorities stand ready to vie with any deviation from their revolutionary orthodoxy. Victimhood was weaponized and become a tool of oppression by the flint-eyed progressives on campus and their enablers on college administrative staff.
By way of instance, he avers that”viewers of CNN and MSNBC seem to have experienced the fascination gene eliminated at birth, so repetitive will be the politics.”  Curiousity is usually amusing and always a joy to read.
An whole generation was scarred by pandemic-related hysteria. Curiosity supplies a tonic for the religious doldrums.At exactly the identical period, Buckley soberly reflects on a serious subject that curious men and women should not be scared to confront–the prospect of their own mortality. He says that”the reduction of religious awe inspiring and also a transcendent vision of life and death has led to a banal tradition of minimalist concerns and politicized literature and art. Excellent art is created by those who are interested in exactly what happens after life ends or of the sense to be made from life if they believe nothing does.”
Buckley devotes the closing chapters of this book to his final”principle”–one that aging boomers will probably encounter: Realize you are knocking on heaven’s door:
We’ve seen Facebook accounts proceed dim and old friends… go the way of all flesh, and we are starting to understand that the identical thing will happen to us. I expect a curiosity about what happens upon departure as well as a new religious awakening. And that will be my generation’s final gift to the Zeitgeist. After the drugs and sex and rock roll, after experiencing every old vice and inventing a few new ones, only one thing stays, and that is a religious revival and a return to traditional morality.
Buckley ends the book with those poignant words:
Our culture asks us to anesthetize our fascination about what awaits us about passing…. Even as God created Eve curious, I think that the incuriosity of modernity will ultimately prove unsatisfying. We were created as inquisitive beings and will constantly find answers, particularly to the many basic questions of our existence. And this, more than anything, is the reason fascination matters.
Mortality may be a gloomy subject for manifestation, however Buckley’s treatment of this ends on a hopeful note. The last year was stressful and tumultuous for many Americans. Strife, isolation, and anxiety took a toll on the individual state, causing lots of people to act fearful, fearful, and also lonely. An whole generation was scarred by pandemic-related hysteria. Curiosity supplies a tonic for your own religious doldrums. In 2020we discovered just how much our health, our happiness, our sanity, depends upon it…. There is only one way out of this insanity, which was to let our fascination take us by the hand and lead us.”