Routine is the destroyer of curiosity. While it affords some order and stability, it often brings about a state akin to wearing blinders. Things in plain view are skipped over, unnoticed. It seems to me one’s body slows down, not to admire something of the beauty; rather the senses become dull. Inspiration for one’s work wanes. Hidden treasures remain hidden. Left to its own devices, routine will cause the wineskin of life to become old and rigid.
Some years ago, I attempted to understand the creative process. Julia Cameron in her book The Artist’s Way exhorted her readers to take frequent “artist’s dates.” These didn’t need to be elaborate or expensive excursions. The emphasis was on simplicity and discovering the undiscovered. As much as I hate the big city traffic and the noxious air, Moscow offers endless opportunities for treasure hunting. I walked by a building nearly every day for months. The façade was drab, no windows, only aged photos of vegetables plastered on the walls. One day, seeing people coming and out of the building, l decided to investigate. I opened the door and found myself in a large mall filled with kiosks selling products such as office supplies, candies, caught-fish languishing in pails of water, and nylon stockings for women. What a surprise! True, it wasn’t an exotic find. That came later.
There are several groups for expats in the city. During the summer months, they offer weekly day tours. On one occasion, we visited a monastery in the vicinity of my apartment. I hadn’t known about the monastery prior to the tour. Our guide told us the tsars liked to hunt in this region. They would stop and enjoy a time of refreshment at the monastery on their way back to Moscow. Later I learned that next to the monastery is an active munitions factory – practically in my backyard. I am not sure of the logic behind building a munitions factory next to a monastery, but it totally “fits” this culture.
My most recent discovery happened a few weeks ago when the guide announced a tour of an estate close to our medical clinic. Hidden in a small forest back from the main roads, the property boasts of a mansion bordered by a lake. Once noted for its musical concerts, the main building contains a magnificent ballroom called the “Marble Room.” See the photo in this post.
Have I let all this grandeur go to my head? Have I lost sight of what really matters in life? I think not. These beautifully crafted historical buildings create wonder. Hidden discoveries revealed broaden our view of our surroundings. We discover we live in an ocean, not a fish bowl. They stretch us and challenge our perceptions. More important, following my curiosity has taught me that things are not always what they seem. Curiosity helps to prepare us for “new wineskins.”
“And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and the wine is lost, and so are the skins; but one puts new wine into fresh wineskins” (Mark 2:22).