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John Engel: Celebrating curiosity and the Earth, every day

Young children exhibit boundless curiosity. With two of them, each day offers a
double-dose of wonder at our house.

Daughter Zoe’s curiosity has blossomed along with her emerging ability to read, write and count. She notices to, too and two all sound the same, yet have different spellings and meanings.

“What’s up with that?” she says.

Recently she informed younger brother Adam that the thousands come after the hundreds and the millions after the thousands. Adam dutifully repeated his sister’s instruction. Then they both started squealing about billions, trillions and gazillions.

In a moment of calm that followed, Zoe asked, “How big is infinity?”

A recent editorial reminded me that curiosity is not just the domain of young minds.

The piece highlighted a new proclamation from European cosmologists that the universe is now estimated to be 80 million years older than previously believed, meaning 13.81 billion years, basically infinity.

The editorial linked curiosity about the existence of the universe to a perennial question among philosophers, “Why is there something rather than nothing?”

So, I was delighted when Zoe recently asked: “What does nothing mean?”

Knowing the world’s most accomplished philosophers are unable to answer such vexing questions, I simply laughed and responded: “How can nothing mean something?”

Then we both laughed and Adam joined in, rattling off names of planets and noting which is farther from the other, leading him to his own philosophical query.

“What’s beyond outer space?” he asked.

Their questions inspire me. Yet, as a father, I wonder how to ensure that their curiosity continues to flourish as they come of age in an uncertain world.

Spring’s arrival helps ease my worries, though, reminding me that the Earth serves as an endless source of wonder. Outdoors their minds and bodies run wild, marveling as the bulbs they planted in the fall emerge in a rainbow of color. They scramble for their collection jars as a universe of critters crawl from the thawed ground. Zoe makes art with bark, moss and other natural objects while Adam uses sticks and rocks to explore his surroundings.

We celebrate Earth Day in the spring, a time when our minds and bodies awaken once more to our oneness with the Earth. Our annual celebration of the life-giving planet we inhabit is a gift to our children, an act of gratitude for the sense of wonder they so profoundly embody, which is reason to celebrate the Earth every day.

John Engel is an organizational development coach and consultant living in Florence. Engel can be reached through his website, www.fatherhood-journey.com.

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