Have you ever wondered about wonder?
“Rejoice young man in your youth…”
I remember reading that quote on the big screen as the music fired up at the start of Oliver Stone’s, Platoon. I was cadet candidate for West Point at the time. On one side of me sat my buddy Sean, a short blonde kid from Pennsylvania. On the other side of me was Bill, a tall dark haired boy from somewhere I can’t recall. We all wanted to be infantry officers. Going to see Platoon was suppose to be a motivational hoorah hoorah thing, but by the end of the film we were speechless. What had we gotten ourselves into? War is a nasty business.
The rest of that quote says “…and let your heart be pleasant during the days of young manhood. And follow the impulses of your heart and the desires of your eyes. Yet know that God will bring you to judgement for all these things.”
I’m in a foul mood this evening. Work has been slow. The rental property people have been squabbling over a few pennies. And now God, it seems, has it in for me for things I did in my youth.
I’m suppose to be writing about wonder, an emotion that some say is one of our most important emotions. Others, of course, say, wonder is a childish emotion that we outgrow. Adam Smith, the 18th century moral philosopher, defined wonder as ‘when something quite new and singular is presented… [and] memory cannot, from all its stores, cast up any image that nearly resembles this strange appearance — that staring, and sometimes that rolling of the eyes, that suspension of the breath, and that swelling of the heart’.
I’m trying to recall when the last time I gazed upon something in wonderment in the way that Adam Smith describes. Probably the last time was in Snowdonia National Park. Even though I’ve been there numerous times, I still find something in the Welsh mountains that causes me to stop and say wow!
But holding strictly to Smith’s definition, I can’t recall the last time I’ve seen something so different that I could not recall from my memory stores something that resembled what I was seeing. Am I just getting old? Or can it be that I’ve seen too much. My cup is full.
What has been will be again,
what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. – Ecclesiastes 1:9
The truth is, I’ve grown too comfortable. Age has nothing to do with. I’ve let myself get distracted by the mundane and the endless task of making a buck. The daily grind is a beast. And if I’m not careful, it’ll grind me to dust.
That has to end here and now.
If I follow Smith’s example, I have three ways I can re-engage my sense of wonder. I can engage the sensory, like the assault on my nose from the hot-sauce on these wings the barman just slid on table. Or I can engage the cognitive like marvelling at the technology involved in making driver-less cars. Or, I can look to the spiritual and know ( or at least take on faith) that life is so much bigger than me. My problems are not as big as I imagine them to be.
I wanted to say one other thing and that’s about curiosity. I believe curiosity and wonder go hand in hand. Curiosity is all about noticing and being drawn to things you find interesting, and in that, finding novelty and meaning in experiences, even in things that are familiar. When you are curious you see things differently.
So there it is, my mission over the next coming weeks, to regain my sense of wonder through engaging my curiosity and see things with new eyes. That’s my plan.