From the Digest

A Starting Place – Intellectual Curiosity

Curiosity led to changes in the author’s care of Pachypodium brevicaule. This example is owned by Don Lesmeister.

By Jason Chretien

While not formally surveyed, I have found that many people who grow plants as a hobby are naturally curious. Thinking about plant growing with a beginner’s mind is about being curious, open to innovative ideas, eager to learn – not based on preconceived notions or prior knowledge, but approaching what we do with a sense of wonder. Armed with curiosity, we position ourselves to notice things more prominently than others might.

Curious about curiosity, I found frequent references to Albert Einstein’s famous words: “The important thing is not to stop questioning. Curiosity has its own reason for existence.” As children, we were naturally curious about everything. This may have annoyed our parents and teachers, but it is an essential part
of human development. If we want to grow intellectually, morally and socially, we need to ask questions and seek answers. We need intellectual curiosity.

What is intellectual curiosity? The intellectually curious person has a deep and persistent desire to know. They ask and seek answers to the “why” questions. And they do not stop asking at a surface level, but instead ask probing questions to peel back layers of explanation to get at the foundational concepts concerning a particular topic.

Curiosity in an unqualified sense killed the cat, or in my journey, visibly altered the life trajectory of many a mature adenium. While not dangerous, I often let my curiosity devolve into aimless Googling about random things. While this could seem to some a waste of time, when my curiosity is aimed at a particular end, and pursued in the right manner, it leads to a richer, more informed experience with something learned in the end.

I regularly commit to investigating some aspect of plant culture that I have yet to explore. Whether drawn to soil, water, light, temperature or pH, keep digging, analyzing and evaluating, so that you can get beyond the first layer or two of answers. Being a creature of habit, I find reminding myself of the following keeps the path varied:

  • Try something new.
  • Be open to and look for new ways of doing things.
  • Seek first to understand by asking questions, listening and observing.
  • Ask others for their opinions and approaches. Everyone does things differently, and there are potential answers and solutions in others’ thinking.

Following just this path, I just learned that Pachypodium brevicaule prefers an acidic pH level. Not the “normal” around 5.5, closer to 3.5. Time to change things up. Now where is the vinegar?