“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”
“It is a happiness to wonder; — it is a happiness to dream.”
― Edgar Allan Poe, Complete Stories and Poems
“The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science. He to whom the emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand wrapped in awe, is as good as dead —his eyes are closed. The insight into the mystery of life, coupled though it be with fear, has also given rise to religion. To know what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms—this knowledge, this feeling is at the center of true religiousness.”
― Albert Einstein, Living Philosophies
Today is Winter Solstice. It’s the darkest day of the year here in the western hemisphere of earth and a time of looking inward and creating our own light and warmth in anticipation of the holidays and ringing in of a New Year. It’s a time for reflection and anticipation. A time for mourning those we have lost and cherishing those we still have. It’s a time of celebration and renewal and of writing the last line of a chapter we must conclude in order to begin a new one. I’ve been thinking a lot about the end of this chapter, and an idea that has been percolating within me. The idea of wonderment.
The Oxford Dictionary defines Wonderment as “as state of awed admiration or respect.” The Mirriam-Webster Dictionary defines is as “astonishment, surprise, curiosity about something.” The Urban Dictionary defines it as “awe, wonder and amazement.” When we use the word wonder, we typically describe it as childlike-wonder. It occurred to me recently that the reason we say this may not be the fact that children are constantly making new discoveries and living life with curiosity, so they are often in a state of wonder, it may be, that adults are not living in this way. We seem to live within a society that encourages us away from our natural inclination to wonder. As a child we stop to investigate a bug on the sidewalk or a snowflake on our mitten and we are hurried along by the adults who have an agenda and schedule to keep, so we are snapped out of our state of wonder time and again. We are taught in school that it is not the questioning that is important, but the answer, the correct answer, to be exact. We are told that knowledge is power and to gain knowledge we must learn as much as possible about the discoveries and information gathered by those that have come before us. When we question things ourselves, we are told not to question, but to listen and pay attention to those who are older and wiser for the answers and not to challenge the way it is. We are systematically taught out of our natural instinct to question and be comfortable within a state of not-knowing. When we are out at a party and someone is talking about something we are not knowledgable about, many of us feel ashamed and would rather hide the fact that we don’t understand, than just ask “what do you mean?” Children ask questions freely and without fear because they have not yet been shamed or humiliated by a teacher or family member about not-knowing or getting it wrong. They have not been a tender pre-teen who has been laughed at by peers or humiliated in public when someone loudly responds to their innocent questioning “YOU DON’T KNOW THAT???” “HOW DO YOU NOT KNOW THAT???” I still experience this as an adult, because I continue to ask questions and not pretend to know things that I don’t. I admit I’m even guilty of saying “YOU DON’T KNOW WHO THAT IS?” to other people. Although, in my defence it’s usually in the context of discovering someone doesn’t know about a particular artist, band or author that is just so phenomenal, everyone should know about them. It’s never in the context of “you should be ashamed of yourself for not knowing the names of all the politicians who held office in your Province since 1974.”
The simple fact is, all of the important discoveries that have ever been made by a human being began as a state of curiosity and wonder. They began from a place of comfortably sitting within the feeling of not-knowing and asking all kinds of questions. Our society seems to deeply value the discoveries themselves, like penicillin or electricity, or telecommunication. Our world is forever changed by the internet and knowledge gained by NASA from exploring outer space, but this creativity and discovery would not have been possible without that magical thing we call childlike-wonder. The people who have gone on to make incredible discoveries or have created something spectacularly life-changing for human beings, did this despite social pressure to grow up, and leave childlike things like wonder behind, and replace them with dependability, strong work ethic and responsibility. We study the philosophers, the composers, the inventors and great business and industry tycoons, gaining their knowledge and insights, but are often not encouraged to be like them. Reason being, these individuals have often been school drop-outs, eccentrics, social outcasts, fringers and they did not accept arbitrary rules or limiting belief structures. They challenged the status quo and they didn’t allow what other people thought of them to discourage them from birthing crazy ideas and outlandish dreams for the future from that magical place of wonder. I imagine these individuals pissed a lot of people off. They likely held up the line at school to investigate that bug on the sidewalk or snowflake on their mitten. They likely got in trouble again and again for not following the rules or pushing boundaries and challenging authority and bureaucracy, and now we have them to thank for the rules they changed, boundaries they broke and bureaucracy they exposed as out-dated or unnecessary.
With a new year fast approaching, I have turned my mind towards the future. We face so many challenges as more people than ever before are becoming aware and accepting that many old ideas, systems and social and societal structures are no longer serving the greater good of the world. We face environmental, governmental and patriarchal concerns and epidemics that challenge us daily to choose a better way to live. People are waking up to it, shining a light on it and exposing it for all to see. People are finding their courage from within a state of fear and as I watch it all unfold around me, I find myself in a state of wonderment. From my own place of fear and sadness and dismay about the state of things, I see people rising up and it gives me hope and courage and empowers me to take my place in the shift. It is a wonderment beyond any I have felt in many years. I am immensely proud and inspired by the brave human beings of this world. I have typically felt that feeling of childlike wonder when marvelling at nature or the cosmos, but lately, I have been feeling it while observing humanity. I feel a deep sense of hope and possibility for the future. I see it in young people challenging old systems and small children who flatly refuse to accept outdated ideas about education and fitting in. All of it makes me smile deep into my gut.
Now is the time of the innovators, the discoverers, the creators and inventors. Now is the time to raise the next generation with their sense of wonder fully intact and not hindered by controlling, oppressive structures. Now is the time for the change makers and people with new ideas to rise up and unite. It’s a very exciting time to be alive in the world, and I am full of anticipation and motivation for the future. I for one, refuse to loose my ability to wonder and question and revel in possibilities that lie within the unknown. It is through our wonderment that we will find the answers we seek and create a better world.
“The more clearly we can focus our attention on the wonders and realities of the universe about us, the less taste we shall have for destruction.”
― Rachel Carson
VINTAGE FASHION: Embroidered wine-coloured caftan from Wildwood Rose Vintage
THRIFTED FASHION: Burgundy felt hat, scarf, and cobalt-blue coat.