Have you ever wondered about wonder? I have, but I’m weird like that. Since childhood I’ve had a tendency to think about things that most people probably wouldn’t. And not by design mind you. In all honesty, I think it’s my brain’s way of coping with what would probably be diagnosed today as attention deficit disorder, as I can bounce insatiably from subject to subject, searching for any new or different information available and adding it to the hard drive that is my brain. Anyway, back to wonder… And the type of wonder I’m talking about is not the, “I wonder if the chicken schnitzel will be half price tonight?” kind of wonder, but the unfortunately often-suppressed emotion we know as wonder! The feeling you get when you discover something awesome you didn’t know before or see something that you haven’t seen before or do something you haven’t done before, and it completely blows your mind! It blows your mind in such a fashion that you are in total amazement of it and your natural curiosity forces you to start to absorb as much of the subject as possible. In turn, this minor obsession evolves into a full blown knowledge explosion filling not only your brain, but by default your soul as well. Suddenly, you feel better for doing or knowing it and you find that it is now an unbreakable part of who you are and what you do. The French philosopher Descartes described this type of wonder as “The first of all the passions”. The basis of all human expression if you will.
The fact is, that if it wasn’t for this very kind of wonder, you would not even be reading these words right now. And I would not be writing them! Your illustrious ship captain Georgia and I have been friends for around 8 years or so. In that short time we have shared our enthusiasm for the awesome, the bizarre and the downright mind bending with each other. We’ve often thrown a subject into the ring and stood back to marvel at the very existence of said thing. And not only getting lost in the details, but also stepping back and pondering the overall contribution they make on our collective psyche and their ability to enhance the human experience. Poetry. Science. Art. Religion. Music. Philosophy. All human afflictions that for reasons unknown, occupy our minds and souls as a species. If I was not the possessor of a natural fascination for all things wonderful, as is Georgia, then she would never have asked me to write something for her here in the first place. In this light, I hope to celebrate the very wellspring of human awesomeness that is wonder…
If necessity is the mother of true invention, then wonder must surely be the great grand mother of true innovation! Innovation of objects, innovation of thinking, innovation of science, innovation of spirit and most importantly, innovation in our expression of what it is to be human. It is wonder that both fuels and propels us headstrong into the unknown, all the while enjoying it! Which is counter to the usual survival mode we are accustomed to as creatures. Humans generally like to play it safe and err on the side of caution, but without these wonderful leaps of faith into the void by the willing, we would still be sitting in a cave frantically rubbing two sticks together, even after 100 thousand years of human evolution! Wonder painted the first Masterdon on a darkened cave wall using nothing more than ground up earth. Wonder carved the very first wheel out of a seemingly useless piece of rock. Wonder made us look up into the sky and construct a myriad of amazing stories to try to explain how we got here. And story telling itself has been a part of human lore from day one, using wonder to weave together (either literally or allegorically) tales that have helped us deal with this unsolvable puzzle we call life.
For millennia, philosophers, poets, religious scholars, artists and scientists alike have all waxed lyrical on wonder and the elevating effect it has on the human being. They have all placed much weight on the need for wonder as a fundamental building block of life. The Ancient Greeks said of wonder, “Wonder is the beginning of all wisdom.” Though the Germanic word we know today as wonder has been with us since around the 12th century, it is plain to see that wonder as a concept has stretched farther back into the human chronicle than we could ever imagine. Which leads me to a very interesting observation. Wonder has been a major part of human advancement since day one and is the cornerstone of all our sciences, arts and religions. How can three completely different disciplines with completely different and often conflicting sets of ideals, paths and goals be borne of the very same source? What’s the common ground between them? Are they all attempting to answer the same question? I personally think so and for my money, that question is: What is existence? Who in the bloody hell am I, how in the bloody hell did I get here and what in the bloody hell am I doing here!? These questions are the sandbox of wonder.
The greatest gift my wonder has given me is persepective. Not just of myself, the people around me and the environment I exist in, but perspective on the entire Universe at large and my position in it. The minuteness juxtaposed with the immensity. Everything is as big as it is small. And I’m connected to all of it and none of it at the very same time. Being able to draw on ALL experience, not just human, is totally awesome to me! And the knowledge gained compounds like a jigsaw puzzle with pieces that come from completely different boxes. This little bit adds to that little bit and you start to make pieces. This piece goes with that piece and pretty soon when you step back, you start to see patterns and shapes forming. These patterns and shapes then somehow seem to correlate as a whole where they didn’t as individual bits. But we need a fail safe for this model and that is that you have to be aware and allow for the picture to change constantly! Without flux and fluidity, the whole thing becomes stiff and complacent. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned above all it is that this, everything we know and are, is completely irrelevant. And that’s the most awesome part about it! Think about it; if all of this is just random chance and we are but a blip on the universal time scale, then it makes sense to enjoy every last second of it while we can! Absorb every last morsel that we can, because if we only have one chance at it (that we can remember) then we better pack as much in as possible! This is why my wonder will never cease. Have you ever seen the symbol of the Ouroboros, the Snake eating it’s own tail? A perfect image for the cycle of wonder! We wonder, and it sends us into a vein of thinking, that vein of thinking in turn sends us more wonder, ad infinitum! This to me is the greatest wonder of wonder! It’s endless and infinite, vast and wide and above all, completely hidden until you choose to look at it…
In preparing for this article, Georgia threw a G K Chesterton quote at me: “We are perishing for want of wonder, not for want of wonders”. Perfect! What old Gil was so eloquently pointing out here is that there will always be a bewildering amount of dazzling wonders (objects) to occupy our eyes with, but without the drive of true wonder, true exploration and discovery of what it is to be a human being, then we are as good as dead. Without wonder there is complacency and static. There is no ascension of thought, of science, of spirit, of being and of us.
Your life and the way you live it is the greatest artwork you will ever construct, and wonder is your palette.
I wonder… do you?
Written by Chris Daughtry