Wednesday, January 4, 2012

PATHS OF WONDER – Can You Get There From Here?

I wonder… Could there be two words more central to human evolution? From the days of our primitive ancestors, it was this simple instinct that set man on his path toward eventual dominion—for good or for ill—over all other creatures and over many of the earth’s other, inanimate assets.

How curious that the verb “to wonder,” is so different in meaning from the noun, “wonder.” To wonder about something is nothing like experiencing wonder. If wondering feeds the mind, wonder feeds the soul. Wondering involves curiosity; wonder is, somehow, about knowing. Wondering is linear; wonder transcends any dimension.

This humility not only makes us better citizens of the world, it puts us in touch with our Creator. 

The one thing that does tie wondering to wonder is that often you can’t get to wonder without first wondering. And that investment, for me, has never failed to pay off.

In Nature’s realm, the curiosity's just the down payment on the real prize. If we're lucky enough to notice something that takes us to a state of wonder, that, in turn, inspires gratitude and reminds us what a small place we occupy in the unfathomable expanse of space and time. This humility not only makes us better citizens of the world, it puts us in touch with our Creator.

Animals of other species are born with some degree of curiosity, but none, as far as we know, has the capacity to imagine or experience wonder. They simply learn from their parents what’s worked for previous generations; they emulate their peers; they learn from trial and error (provided they survive the error); and they follow certain hard-wired instincts. (Think of a cat’s chase response, a cephalopod’s ink cloud defense or a human mother’s letdown of milk when she hears her baby cry).

We human beings, though we still retain some instinctive responses of our own, are blessed with the singular capacity to choose how—or whether—to think about something. We alone can imagine something that doesn’t yet exist, and then create it. We can also decide whether or not to welcome wonder when we have the chance.

Spurning the gift of wonder…deprives you of something you need every bit as much as you do the rewards of more material pursuits.

Sadly, there are people with every opportunity to know wonder who choose other priorities. You know the people I’m talking about; they’re the ones who allow
themselves to be defined by the making and spending of money, power or some other currency. They're convinced there’s no truth beyond their own little spheres of interest, so focused on their concept of “the prize” that they fail to notice the beautiful landscape along the way.

I’m not saying that spurning the gift of wonder is wrong; it's just that it deprives you of something you need every bit as much as—perhaps even more than—the rewards of more material pursuits.

So I’ve made it my challenge—my life’s work, if you will—to wonder. I want to make sure my little path through this place and time is a peaceful, creative, constructive one, one of beauty, appreciation, worship and awe. I don’t know where the path leads, but I’m pretty sure that’s less important than knowing it leads somewhere I want to go.

A central theme of this journey is that, no matter how far I’ve come, many truths will continue to lead me on, always just beyond my reach.

People who are all about knowing...don’t have a clue about wondering, not to mention ever realizing the gift of wonder. 

Do you get the feeling as I do that some people see wondering as a sign of weakness? After all, it’s so inconsistent with knowing. And knowing, it seems, is to many the most highly prized possession of all. Perhaps they're confusing knowing with the truth.

Remember what I said about not being able to experience wonder without first wondering? People who are all about knowing, who always need to be right, don’t have a clue about wondering, not to mention ever realizing the gift of wonder.

What a shame that people can't even find the trailhead for such a beautiful hike! For the path from wondering to wonder leads one through a sequence of powerful capacities: wondering leads to discovery; discovery to learning; learning to imagination; imagination to creativity and, finally, in a connection that few understand and even fewer believe, it's that creativity that opens one's mind and spirit to the sense of wonder.

You'll notice that this wandering, wondering way has no tangible destination—especially if you expect that place to be some kind of easy answer. This is why the knowers of this world choose other paths.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve decided I value the wondering more than the knowing. So I’ll carry on with my perpetual quest for my own version of truth, aware that there may well be none more worthy than wonder.


Grace said...

I too value wonder as much as, if not more than, knowing--even if it makes me "childish" to others . . . although I prefer "child-like" and take that as a compliment! Knowing and wonder are in many ways just two sides of the same coin, and I value both.

I think your floral choice of photo is excellent for this post. It is some of kind Datura, which opens at night! and emits a lovely fragrance. It is also a hallucinogen (and posionious), so it could lead one to have whimsical experiences of wonder:)not that I would recommend ingesting it.

Jeffrey Willius said...

Wow, I guess I'll have to explore that flower a bit more -- a wonder indeed! Thanks for sharing your insights, Grace.

Anonymous said...

GREAT post Jeffrey:)!! I see it as using left brain-more linear way of thinking or right brain-more creative way of thinking-I used to use 90% of my left-always missing on the more special, more beautiful things in life- now I'm a right brain user and I'm in the very same world seeing and experiencing A VERY different reality!! Thank you for this gorgeous post:)!!

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hi Daisy -- Thanks for the kind words and for sharing your experience with seeing the world anew. Still hard for me to get around my left brain to spend time with my right!

Anonymous said...

LOL:)!! Everything takes time practice right:)!

Dilip said...

Hi Jeffrey. I am fascinated by your blog and your inspirational writings. It is indeed a wonderful world in the eyes of a child.
May I share one of the photo from this post with my blog readers and spread the positivity around. The credits would be duly acknowledged.

Wish you well always.

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hey, Dilip -- Thanks for your comment. I'm glad you like my blog. You may share any of the photos, though I must issue this disclaimer: while I've tried to source all my photos from free, public-domain sites such as WikiMedia, on rare occasions and under tight deadlines, I may have grabbed one from Google Images without digging too far to find the proper credit. Either way, no need to credit me or One Man's Wonder for photos, though I'd appreciate your linking to OMW for any ideas or inspiration you might glean from my other content. If you use a photo I've credited to someone, please do credit that same source. Thanks.

Dilip said...

Point well taken Jeffrey. Its fair and I will surely take care.
Thank you.

Post a Comment

Thanks for visiting One Man's Wonder! I'd love to hear your comments on this post or my site in general.
And please stay in touch by clicking on "Subscribe" below.