Curiosity Killed The Cat – Or Did It?

I have mostly enjoyed lockdown. It is like I needed permission to slow down and have had time to reflect and take some actions and connect with some new people who have similar interests to me.

A lot of it has stemmed from my curiosity to try something new and to learn something new or dig deeper into things I think I know, but don’t. I have been reflecting what a good quality this is to have and develop and wondered where it could take me and could I use this quality to help in my soul growth – to break down some walls in my blocks to feeling all of my emotions and God?

But in a discussion with some fellow coaches about curiosity someone mentioned the phrase “curiosity killed the cat” and it sounds so contrary to what I felt so I looked it up, though the other thing that popped into my head was the 1980s pop group!

Oh there is some memories looking at that picture – yes I am old enough to remember them. I think I liked the drummer and the lead singer still wears that hat now!


But I digress… curiosity…

On is says that the meaning of “curiosity killed the cat” was that inquisitiveness can lead one into dangerous places. Then on the same website it explains the origins (stay with me – I love language and words!):

 The ‘killed the cat’ proverb originated as ‘care killed the cat’ back in 1598 in a play. By ‘care’ the coiner of the expression meant ‘worry/sorrow’ rather than our more usual contemporary ‘look after/provide for’ meaning.

But now is used to stop people asking too many questions!

It continues,

Curiosity hasn’t received a good press over the centuries. Saint Augustine wrote in Confessions, AD 397, that, in the aeons before creating heaven and earth, God “fashioned hell for the inquisitive”. John Clarke, in Paroemiologia, 1639 suggested that “He that pryeth into every cloud may be struck with a thunderbolt”. In Don Juan, Lord Byron called curiosity “that low vice”. That bad opinion, and the fact that cats are notoriously inquisitive, led to the source of their demise being changed from ‘care’ to ‘curiosity’.

That brings up some childhood emotions as we were told all the time, “children should be seen and not heard” and at church, I was pulled aside “Thou shall not question the Lord, thy God” when I put  my hand up yet again. My answer to that was to wonder why God had given me a brain. I think I stopped going to church a couple of months later.

What a sad thing to squash curiosity and yet over history we have, particularly those in power to ‘control the masses’ and the same thing happens in families, as it did in mine. Either parents/grandparents demand the child act only in a way that doesn’t upset the adults, meets their expectations of a ‘good’ child and/or just don’t have the patience to answer the millions of questions that pour forth from young children with their natural inquisitiveness and curiosity. There I said – it’s natural. We were born with it. It’s how we learn. It’s how God helps us discover more about the world we live in, ourselves and each other. 

It’s a dreadful thing to suppress that natural curiosity and it may start at home, but it also, ironically, continues through our education system and so buy the time we have hit adolescene or younger we have lost most it.

But curiosity is just one of the many beautiful qualities God gave us that we are born with and can develop over our lifetime.

Elizabeth Gilbert, who wrote Eat, Pray, Love, says that she has a tremendous amount of fear, but that she has just 1% more curiosity and it is this that carries her through, helps her take actions and live a creative life. She also points out the wonder of just that 1% – just enough to tip the scales on her fear.

There is lot out there on curiosity – books, talks and hundreds of quotes. Einstein said, “ I have no special talent. I am just passionately curious.”

Below is a short TedX talk called “Curiosity Saved the Cat” and she says some great things about  curiosity and gives some famous examples if you are interested.

These are some of the qualities in curiosity I’ve found:

  • A willingness to look under the stone, no matter how daunting
  • Openness
  • Playfulness
  • Adventure
  • Willing to investigate
  • Ability to really listen without needing to reply
  • Creativity
  • Fascination

I see it like a dance, that you don’t know all the steps to, but you are willing to just try out some movements, move across the floor, see how it feels, but continue to want to discover where else this dance will take you and how.

But what I am really concluding at the moment is that I have mostly felt emotionally and spiritually stuck for a long time now. My resistance to emotions is so strong, but so painful too. However, lately what I have found is that my curiosity is helping me and things are popping up and I am saying yes to them and seeing what happens. In fact, I have always had this quality and it has led me to learn lots of things, ask lots of questions, but also to take a different path home or when I move to a new town I go wondering and just turn down roads to see where they lead.

During lockdown I have discovered new country and river walks, new butterflies and plants. I have recorded birdsong, curious to know which sound is which bird (still figuring that one out), foraged some plants and tried out soups and salads with them.

It could be just one thing that may start you on the yellow brick road…

So what I am feeling is that God gave us all at least one quality that will lead us out of the marshlands and mud of our pain, resistance and sin. For some it may be a strong desire for truth, for some a desire to love, for some courage, or humility or a desire to learn. The list is much longer than I am capable of understanding right now, but whatever quality it is that God has given you and there is probably more than one, but there may be one quality that is just a bit stronger than the rest; one that you can work with, develop to help you progress. It may be that for most of your life you have held back with it because of what others may think or fear, but don’t – your future happiness depends on your seeking, of growing these positive qualities in us. 

We may convince ourselves in our dark moments, fear or narcissism that we are the one hopeless case, as I have done many times, but it cannot be true. The truth is God wants us to be happy, to love and be loved. The evidence for this is that God’s Laws are constantly calling us home, constantly trying to correct our unlovingness and help us heal our error and we if pay attention it is very obvious, so logically it cannot be impossible for anyone. 

So get curious – what do you have in you that can start your journey? Or move you forward from wherever you are? Stop hiding the light within that is still there, always has been. It’s the flame that just needs fanning…

More 80’s magic… 🙂


The TedXkids talk I mentioned: