Rules By the Dozen
Curiosity is the instinct that prompts us to act, so a book about curiosity should tell us how to act. This is the first to do so with its 12 rules for life. Tweet
A dozen calls to action. Whose rules matter most? Just do something—anything.
A liberal education is not a course in liberalism rather the liberating effects of curiosity as a way of life.
The book itself is a lock-pick for hungry souls driven to experience life to its inquisitive fullest.
It surveys rivals of truth: Athens, Jerusalem, Rome and the moderns.
Jordan Peterson’s bestseller, 12 Rules For Life, calls itself “an antidote to chaos.” Frank Buckley’s Curiosity: And Its Twelve Rules for Life might well call itself “an antidote to inaction,” since curiosity’s first victim is stasis. Restless curiosity, after all, makes things, builds things, solves things—it doesn’t sit idly by and wonder.
To this end, Frank H. Buckley, as you might expect, best captures the soul of his own book:
“While a fatal sin in Eden, curiosity is a necessary virtue in our world. It asks us search for new experiences, to create, to invent. It tells us to look inward, to be curious about the needs of other people and our own motives. It tells us not to be a stick in the mud or a bore. In particular, curiosity asks us to examine the most fundamental questions of our existence. When you pull all this together, curiosity tells you how to life in the full.”
Here is an abbreviated account of the 12 rules of self-help that frame Buckley’s accounting of curiosity of mind in action.
- Don’t Make Rules. Rules are the first cut at how we should behave. Moral heroes—people like those who sheltered European Jews during the Second World War—are remembered because they were curious about the fate on forgotten people.
- Take Risks. Nothing new was ever created without risk-taking.
- Court Uncertainties. Risks are different from uncertainties. You don’t know what the probabilities are, without uncertainty. It’s a shot in the dark.
- Be Original. The first step to make your own way is originality and curiosity about the weakness, falsity and banality of received ideas.
- Show Grit. New things tend to not come easily.
- Be Interested in Other People. Knowing yourself, as Plato philosophized, may give you confidence, but curiosity makes you want to meet other people. It is the touchstone of love.
- Be Entertaining. We have a duty to be entertaining while we live, because we’re not very amusing when we’re dead.
- Be Creative. A work of art from an innovator will always strike a spark of curiosity.
- Be Open to the World. People are necessarily incurious when they refuse to take any pleasure from life.
- Don’t Be Smug. Moral people are curious people. The incurious are moral mediocrities.
- Don’t Overreach. People have been punished for excessive curiosity, from Pandora to Eve to a zillion cats.
- Realize You are Knocking on Heaven’s Door. Curious people will ask the most fundamental questions of all: what happens after you die? And what sense are we to make of life?
A dozen calls to action. Whose rules matter most? Peterson’s rules may tell you why to do something. But Buckley is more direct: just do something—anything. Both books have a place among the Planned Library in the end.
PM is a curious enterprise, so Buckley’s book is very much in our sweet spot. Everything listed above is drawn from the book’s jacket and preface. Buckley provides readers with a liberal education (without student debt), in exploring these dozen characteristics of a curious mind, and does it in under 200 pages. A liberal education is not a course in liberalism rather the liberating effects of curiosity as a way of life.
Curiosity, a habit of mind, capable of picking the locks on the chains that bind us, allowing us to see and judge for ourselves projections of truth being fed to us by our time—or anytime. The book itself is a lock-pick for hungry souls driven to experience life to its inquisitive fullest.
Curiosity and Its 12 Rules for Life is a very personal book. Buckley’s choice of authors draws from his engagement of the human journey’s most curious thinkers. It surveys rivals of truth: Athens, Jerusalem, Rome and the moderns. Curious philosophers, believers and artists are his material. I know Buckley’s mind well—and count him as a friend—so I can say his choice of material to make his point surprised me. The subject matter was unanticipated because it revealed so much about a person I thought I knew thoroughly—Frank and I have much more to discuss.
Books of such breadth and depth are usually much longer and a slog. Curiosity…reads like a detective story.
This is a three-thumbs-up book—a great read about the pursuit of the meaning of existence done well.