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Skeptical Of Skepticism

How did it happen that so many of our leaders have learned to react with skepticism and disbelief when confronted with something new or unfamiliar? And, how did it happen that they would remain skeptical? How did it happen that they would refuse to entertain, let alone examine, new ideas or new information? How? Why? When?

It'd be easy to point to an event, or the advent of a certain philosophy, or even the popularity of a particular person to answer those questions, but that doesn't feel right. Rather, I would suggest that the vigorous ascendency of skepticism in our culture has been occasioned by the death (or diminishment) of, curiosity.

We've all read recently about the need to cultivate and grow an increased capacity for empathy in our leaders-- the ability to, "walk a mile" in the shoes of another, and the unique understanding that flows from that process. Who could argue with that? Common sense-- people sense-- is rooted in empathic understanding.

But, I would respectfully suggest, the quality of empathy grows directly out of another quality of leadership that seems to have been overlooked-- curiosity. People who are curious about people, places or things with which they are not familiar, are intuitively empathic. Walking the proverbial mile is ultimately borne of curiosity-- of the desire to learn-- and learning lies at the very core of leadership.

Nobody ever learns anything new, coming from a place of skepticism. Rather, skeptics steadfastly defend-- some would say cling to-- that which they already know. "Tried and true" prior experience certainly has the advantage of being previously tested, but that doesn't make it immutably "true". What ever happened to the notion of evolution?

As it turns out, curiosity is also an important component of mindfulness and meditation. I don't think we can ever aspire to be mindful-- I don't think we can ever practice meditation-- without being curious. For me, curiosity is right up there with non-attachment and non-judgment.

Curiosity may have colloquially "killed the cat", but it can help the rest of us temper the instinct to embrace blind skepticism, and foreclose the possibility of new insight and-- dare I suggest-- new wisdom.


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