Ethical Edge

By Russell Williams

Ethical Edge

A lively curiosity

The Ethical Edge
The Art Of Integrity


“I could not, at any age, be content to take my place by the fireside and simply look on.  Life was meant to be lived.  Curiosity must be kept alive.  One must never, for whatever reason, turn his back on life.”
Eleanor Roosevelt

The late Howard Bern was my professor of zoology at the University of California at Berkeley in 1957 when I was attending college. One time when we passed each other on campus, he asked me how I was doing.  When I told him my problem in not being able to take classes other than what was required for medical school, he gave me some advice: “Don’t take classes that will teach you stuff; take classes that will stimulate you to learn on your own.”

Dr. Bern’s insightful counsel guided me to create my own undergraduate curriculum…with the permission of higher-ups. Taking classes in various departments related to the cultural aspects of religion allowed me to get a good liberal-arts education in addition to good grounding in the sciences. Since then, the advice to open to that which would stimulate my personal and professional initiatives has continued to support my choices in workshops and reading.

I’ve always loved to browse in libraries and used book stores. It might be said that I’m “intellectually promiscuous.” I don’t always finish the books I pick up. With Prof. Berne’s voice in the background, I forgive this selectiveness. It’s allowed me to cover more ground, not feeling compelled to read through stuff that didn’t hold my interest.

Indeed, browsing offers a funny kind of sensuality for a book person. It’s nice feeling free to read for fun, not having to study; free to return a book to the library skimmed, but not read. Not that I don’t read a lot, I’m lucky to have a wife, Allee, who enjoys being read to and, in turn, reading to me. We do this while taking turns flossing our teeth before bedtime!  Crazy and creative, huh!

There’s also a growing awareness that, in the face of the information explosion, whatever grabs my lively curiosity is, yet, only a tiny fraction of what is out there! Mixed with a broad range of interests is the   awareness of the thousands of topics in which I have no interest…i.e… most sports, most celebrities, most television shows. We don’t even have a TV in the house!

As I view the journey of the information explosion during my lifetime, the stream of information in the 1940s became a river, then a delta, then a flood by the 1990s.  Now, in 2013, we are living in a continuous information tsunami. I’ve come to accept that “keeping up” is an impossible goal. So I continue my endless, lively curiosity to read what stimulates my path of continuous learning which is now in its eighth decade.

Today, I am grateful that Professor Berne validated an inclination I secretly harbored. It’s as if he said, “Your curiosity is a wonderful strength, treasure it, use it.”    Perhaps Albert Einstein stated it well, “It is a miracle that curiosity survives formal education.”

Dr. Adam Blatner can be contacted at  adam@blatner.com





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