Every couple nights, I read stories to you. I like stories. I like reading. And I like you. You get to hear your mother all the time, her voice echoing down there in your tank. You hear my voice reading Curious George. Or Dune. Frankly, it doesn’t really matter because you don’t understand words, but I usually stick to the former because I can’t pronounce half the names in the latter. The message fits better, too. One is about a monkey who gets into pickles because he’s inquisitive, and the other is about political backstabbing and giant sand worms.
We want you to be curious, Blue. Your mother and I have already decided that when you go mobile, we’re going very carefully conceal the boundaries of your exploration. You’ll think you’re completely free to go anywhere you want, not knowing any different. Just like those monkeys at the zoo who think they’re back in Africa and completely oblivious of the hidden moat of concrete surrounding them on all sides.
We want you to explore, Blue. According to statistics I just made up for this entry, curious people have 100% more awesome in everything. I know this because the bellwether for awesome jobs, the astronaut, is plastered on 95% of posters that are about curiosity. Again, made up stat, but the point still stands.
You don’t have to be an astronaut, Blue. Just be curious. Fortune favors the bold.
However, there is a flip side to this. Curiosity can take you places, but you’re going to need to know there is a line you can’t cross. Just like how Columbus knew he couldn’t sail too far on the ocean blue before he fell off the side of the Earth into nothing. Or how Neil Armstrong knew not to drive the moon buggy too far away from Apollo 11 because he would have found the Transformers. Or how I knew not to handle poisonous snakes in a bank.
Your grandmother might tell it differently, but don’t believe her story. I keep my facts straight, Blue.
Go with me to the year 1985. We’re in a gargantuan brick cube with tiny black windows. Your grandmother is a bank teller. I’m 4. Because I’m not ready for kindergarten yet and the babysitter is really expensive, a few days a week your grandmother picks me up early. I play in the bank garden. The bank garden is awesome, a wondrously green cornucopia of ferns and fronds. I go in there and I’m no longer in a bank. I’m Indiana Jones, and I’m hacking my way through the jungle. Just around the corner is the forbidden temple of Fiftthirdia, and I must steal the golden pen on the deposit table without the guardians seeing me.
Imagination takes me a long way away from suburban Cincinnati, but let me be clear. This really is a jungle. They imported the plants from Costa Rica. And when they imported the plants from Costa Rica, they imported everything IN the plants as well. Which means that as I’m temple raiding, I come across a bright band of red, yellow and black. When I get closer, it slithers away into the darkness under a fern. My 4 year old instantly thinks the words COOL, I WANT TO TOUCH IT, SNAKE, NO, DANGER all at one time. Good thing for the confusion, because it freezes me. As I stand still, I see the line. The line we talked about up above, Blue. And I know that as much as I want to, I cannot, CANNOT, pet that snake.
I go tell your grandmother. Turns out, the trees they imported in had coral snakes hiding away in a secret compartment nobody bothered to check. Coral snakes are very poisonous, and if I had crossed that line to pet that snake instead of going to tell your grandmother, then I might not be here to write this cautionary tale.
I am here. Fortune favors the bold, Blue, but curiosity also killed the cat. I don’t know what happened to those snakes. They probably ended up in the zoo, just like those monkeys oblivious to their boundaries. You might not know the line either at first, Blue, but we’ll get you there.