A brief commentary on superstition. In praise of curiosity.

I was talking to somebody last week who told me that, as a child, they were warned off pointing at the stars ‘because it gives you warts.’ An old wives’ superstition that was funny in its randomness (and in the complete lack of respect for the germ theory of disease). But it irritated me in its function; in curbing an inquisitive child.

The stars (and our closest celestial neighbour, the moon) are a child’s first introduction to the cosmos, the universe and everything in between. A child’s curiosity about the nature of those iridescent flickers of light in the night sky could be the starting point for a lifelong passion for chemistry, astronomy, biology, physics, science fiction, evolution, art. An opportunity to be captivated by the enormity of life and our place in it. Looking at the stars is an invitation to wonder.

I remember being amazed when my science teacher told us that we are star dust; that the atoms and elements that coalesced to create life were the shrapnel of supernovas that occurred billions of years ago. I suddenly had a new perspective from which to assess the accident of my existence, my connection to everything that is, was or ever will be.

Curiosity is a glorious thing. It is the stuff of discovery and exploration. Curiosity is the driver of our evolution and of human migration across the planet. It is the force behind space travel and introspection. It is a sign of an alive mind that is engaged with life. It should be praised, lauded and encouraged as a lifetime commitment to the magic and poetry of existence.

Keep pointing at the stars. Stay curious.