Archive for April, 2013

Children are filled with wonder, especially when they visit zoos, museums, or light displays. They also wonder about many things and preface many questions with the word why.

But adults seem intent on erasing, rationalizing, and closing the case on any sense of wonder about life and nature, especially in the scientific realm. Of course we will wonder at the birth of a baby, the success story of Steve Jobs, or a sensational interception in a Super Bowl game, but what happened to the sense of wonder we all had as children. Has science, the evening news, and the internet killed wonder. And are we the ones who want it dead?

What is wonder? There are three aspects to the word wonder. It’s a thing, an emotion, and an event.

First of all, wonder is a thing. Some thing which arouses awe, astonishment, surprise, or admiration. The Coliseum of Rome, for example, is a wonder.

Secondly it’s an emotion. Feelings aroused by something awe-inspiring, astounding, or marvelous. It’s what we feel when we see the Northern Lights. It can also be feelings or thoughts of puzzlement or doubt, like¬†I wonder what she meant by that?

Thirdly, it’s an event. A happening explained by the laws of nature; a miracle. In the movie The Ten Commandments, the parting of the Red Sea was a wonder to behold.

As a teacher, I observe many teachers interacting with others and with the material they teach. I expect teachers to have a love for learning and to convey and even transmit that passion to their students. Wrong. It saddens me to see teachers bored with their jobs. How do I know that? Because they see that I am a substitute and they question why I am back in the classroom–a sure sign that they themselves are unhappy being there.

I see dead people in my gym too. Physically they are robust, but inwardly they are dead. They cannot look into another person’s eyes and marvel at the depths of an immortal soul. They’re inept at contemplating the grandeur of the starry hosts. They are loath to explore a complex abstract philosophical idea, and refuse to entertain a seemingly intransigent moral paradox.

When did Americans close their minds? Well, when they had to. I see shops and ¬†warehouses closed down. They are closed because they are empty. It would be ludicrous to keep a store open if there is no merchandise inside. Not to be harsh, but it’s the same with us. We have nothing to think about, so we close our minds.

Sure, we can talk business and the economy. We can discuss prices and diet. We can safely brag on our sports teams and rattle off statistics. We can speak volumes about our entertainers and even casually wade into politics. But we have all the answers, the info, the tidbits of knowledge. When it comes to exhausting a topic we depend on so-called experts.

But we have nothing to wonder about. The Hubble telescope has the stars, academia has the scope on our origin and forensics the final word on our demise. Hawking and Hitchens have taken the breath of life out of our humanity, and organized religion has the vestigial symbols of our primordial faith. So, why do we need to wonder, and what is there to wonder about? We have all the answers, so there are no queries for meaning, only for information.

When wonder is dead, life loses its meaning. And if human life is meaningless, then it is only a matter of time before lives are devalued.

The irony is this: if we have nothing to wonder about, then there is no reason to die either, for nothing unknown lies beyond. To cease to wonder is essentially an insult to the process of life, and to its consummation.

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