Humble, Curious, and Ready to Be Amazed
I’ve been on a journey this week. Leaving Portland last Sunday, I traveled from Oregon through Washington, to Missoula, Montana, where I helped my son, Zeph, pack up his apartment and drive south to California to start a new job and a new life era. Our caravan consisted of one large U-Haul, two cars, four adults and a tabby cat named Janko. We passed through Idaho, Utah, and Arizona, crossed the Mojave Desert and ended in downtown San Diego, California, where we unloaded the U-Haul into an industrial-style studio apartment. I felt privileged to be along for such a momentous crossing into the next season of my son’s life, following his graduation from the University of Montana. I drove Zeph’s car while he drove the U-Haul. My traveling companion, Janko, and I listened to 20 hours of audio material as we drove, including my favrotite 80s playlist and an audiobook entitled Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better Than You Think.
Factulness, written by Hans Rosling, a Swedish medical doctor, along with his son, Ola Rosling and his daughter-in-law, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, was an interesting listen as we traversed the United States from north to south. The book is “a result of constant discussion, argument, and collaboration between three people [Hans, Ola, and Anna] with different talents, knowledge, and perspectives” Their book is “about the world, and how to understand it” and provides a convincing case for the importance of basing our worldview on facts. In Hans Rosling’s words, “This book is my very last battle in my lifelong mission to fight devastating global ignorance. It is my last attempt to make an impact on the world: to change people’s ways of thinking, calm their irrational fears, and redirect their energies into constructive activities.”
The authors present data to assist readers in establishing worldviews based on facts and provide tools to help people make good decisions, recognize true dangers, avoid the stress caused by worrying about the “wrong things,” recognize overdramatic stories, combat dramatic human instincts, and shift misconceptions to form fact-based perspectives of the world. They accomplish this through highlighting ten instincts that tend to lead people to incorrect conclusions, instincts such as the fear instinct, the blame instinct, and the urgency instinct, and they provide practical suggestions for resisting these instincts. Not surprisingly, resistance involves “slow thinking” and the authors include Daniel Kahneman, expert in the benefits of slow thinking, in their sources at the end of their book. They encourage readers not to be embarrassed when they discover their incorrect ideas, but instead to react with curiosity, humility, and a desire to be amazed. In this way, we can live calmer, more peaceful lives, based on actual occurrences and real data.
As I listened to this book while engaged in our trek, several sections and features caught my attention and mingled with my thoughts of my son and his friends, making this move to California. They also created an interesting backdrop for the many different people I was passing along our journey. I will highlight two of those sections and book features: rebooting our brain with updated material and the partnership through which this book was created.
Rebooting Our Brain
According to the authors, one of the keys to combatting ignorance is to update our knowledge and worldview throughout our lives, because the world will always be changing. They note, “What you learn about the world at school will become outdated within 10 or 20 years of graduating.” With “humility and curiosity,” we must be open to a lifetime of learning and adjusting our perspectives. With humor, the writers suggest that just as car companies issue recalls when mistakes are discovered, so perhaps we need a system whereby recalls are issued when the facts we learned in our schools and universities become out of date. Such a recall letter might read: “Sorry, what we taught you is no longer true. Please return your brain for a free upgrade.”
I thought about my son, freshly out of college. Maybe he won’t need a reboot for a couple years. I thought about the many people I was observing as we journeyed across the United States, including myself. In Portland, Spokane, Missoula, Idaho Falls, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, San Diego: we are all most likely in need of a reboot.
The Partnership Through Which This Book was Created
When I came to the close of the book, I was saddened to learn that Hans Rosling had passed away from pancreatic cancer in 2017 and that his son and daughter-in-law had finished the book on their own. They said, “As we completed this precious task, Hans’s voice was always in our heads, and we often felt that he was not gone but still in the room beside us. Finishing the book felt like the best way to keep him with us and to honor his memory.” I imagine that the process of father, son, and daughter-in-law, creating together, must have been a life-giving, meaningful, privilege for all three people. In my mind, it reflects a commitment on the part of each person to more than just a project, but to each other. From Hans’s point of view, I wonder what he would have said about this opportunity to work together with his son and his son’s wife. I bet he would say it was a pure gift.
I thought of my own son, driving the U-Haul ahead of me. I wondered what we might be able to create together. I’m not sure. One thing I do know, though, this journey today and the opportunity to be part of his life as he enters adulthood: pure gift.
I’m thankful for the unique opportunity to process Factfulness as I drove and witnessed a micro slice of the world around me. I hope I will always have the humility and curiosity needed to adapt and update my worldview. I also hope for the privilege of holding family close and embarking on adventures together that enrich our lives and contribute to the lives of people around us.
The road ahead is open and the world around complex. Thanks be to God for continual guidance as we endeavor to remain humble, curious, and ready to be amazed.
 Hans Rosling, Ola Rosling, Anna Rosling Rönnlund, Factfulness: Ten Reasons We’re Wrong About the World – and Why Things Are Better than You Think (New York, NY: Flatiron Books, 2018), x.
 Ibid., 3.
 Ibid., 15.
 Ibid., 16.
 Ibid., vii.
 Daniel Kahneman, Thinking, Fast and Slow (New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 2011).
 Rosling, Rosling, Rosling Rönnlund, 17.
 Ibid., 16-17.
 Ibid., 249.
 Ibid., 259.
 Isaiah 58:11.
5 responses to “Humble, Curious, and Ready to Be Amazed”
Leave a Reply
You must be logged in to post a comment.
It is always a blessing to be able to share with others especially your love ones. Are there any biases you have toward your son moving to Cali.
“The road ahead is open and the world around complex.” I often think of this but not in these words. I love the way you put it. I often think the road is open and the world is full of mystery to explore. Thanks for sharing!
Jenny, I love this post. Staying humble is so key to changing your perspective. The curiosity to want to learn and engage is so important too. I keep remembering on our advance the idea of being a humble learning, to engage our context from that perspective changes how we view things and how we interpret the facts. Im glad you had a great journey!
Great post Jenny. And what a fascinating time for reflection. Road trips are good like that. The long, open road with new scenery provides invaluable time to think.
In what way has your worldview changed over the past ten years?
this is so good to know:
“What you learn about the world at school will become outdated within 10 or 20 years of graduating.”
This makes me think that I am glad I am furthering my education!
Wouldn’t it be fascinating to take inventory of what we were taught in the past which is outdated information?
I am looking forward to heaven where what I know will remain current!
Thank you for sharing some precious road trip reflections!