by Anshuman Swain
My name is Anshuman Swain. I am from Poughkeepsie, New York, (mentioned in Friends and How I Met Your Mother), and I am majoring in chemistry and math. In my free time, I like to dance (on the Emory Karma Bhangra team) and watch horror movies.
“Anshu, why is the sky blue? Why can’t we breathe underwater? Why do we exist? Why? Why? Why?”
“I’ll tell you later. Please, just let me sleep.”
Every summer morning, I would wake up to my cousin yelling that one word in my face: “Why?” One day, I decided to entertain him. I answered all his questions –well, I tried anyway. I realized that I didn’t know much about the simplest things around me.
I didn’t know why the sky was blue, and existential conundrums were out of the question.
I learned a valuable lesson that day.
I learned about the power of the word “Why?”
I learned what I valued.
I learned about my curiosity.
My cousin, like every other child, constantly questions the world around him. He is driven by his curiosity, and this curiosity is fundamental in shaping his interests, his knowledge, and ultimately who he is.
I strive for this level of curiosity, and as a college student, I am on the pursuit of finding who I am and what interests me. This constant curiosity—this constant craving for knowledge—defines me.
I use it in my research, formulating questions to expand on what is already known or testing the theories we deem as true. I use it in class, questioning all the concepts my professors present. I even use it when browsing the news or Facebook, questioning the current Democratic debates and even Cardi B’s latest outfit.
All of my questions revolve around one central word—the central word—“Why?” I think this word is crucial in understanding almost anything. For example, I listen to a lot of rap music, and for people who don’t listen to rap, the artists may seem like they are regurgitating a thesaurus mingled with some bellows and sprinkled with some adlibs. But looking into why the rapper uses these lyrics, these ad libs, and looking into his background helps me understand the purpose of those lyrics.
I also believe that teachers are the gatekeepers to curiosity. Throughout high school, I would hear my peers complain about the teacher assigning homework, or teaching a topic that didn’t seem relevant or something that they “would never need to use.” However, teachers hold the power of knowledge, the—one thing, the only thing—that can quench curiosity. While my peers went on their iPhones during class or skipped school to get high in the park, I would try to absorb all the information my teachers presented to me. This not only translated to the knowledge I gained, but to my work ethic and desire to be—for lack of a better word—curious.
I always think back to that morning when my cousin woke me up, jumping on my chest and yelling like a maniac.
I think about my throbbing ribs and desire to strangle my cousin. But I always remember loving that moment. I remember the “Why?” the eagerness in his eyes, and my own budding curiosity.
Sometimes I imagine the curious cat, sitting on the windowsill, staring at me, staring into my mind, staring into my soul.
I imagine what it’s thinking about, its curiosity about me, its curiosity about my curiosity.
And then I remember that curiosity killed the cat, but if that’s the case, then that cat died in the most valiant way possible.