How Can We Maintain Wonder?

The older you get and the more experiences you have, the easier it is to become jaded. However, a sense of wonder at the marvels of the world help to motivate us, and drive us to learn and appreciate life more.

So how to resist that creeping sense of boredom or frustration? How can we maintain wonder?

Related questions: What are the pros and cons of experience? What can be learned from children? How do we learn?

2 thoughts on “How Can We Maintain Wonder?”

  1. I just had a discussion with a friend last night and she touched upon this subject. I asked her how her child has changed her, and she reflected that he had made her experience things through his eyes. While she didn’t use these words, she said that she experienced the wonder of things all over again, such as the first time her son walked barefoot on grass. How cool is that? How can we bring this kind of wonder and joy into our lives every day (with or without kids)?

  2. There is a significant sense in which wonder does — and should — have a child-like quality to it, and ought to be cultivated throughout life. If we are fortunate, we might have one or two such types in our lives (or you are one yourself), and they bring tremendous joy and vivacity to all that we do.

    Children ask the foundational questions that life dampens our enthusiasm and interest in pursuing, and this is a small tragedy. For those questions and aporias were our consciousness’s first steps, and what is more crucial than beginnings? The child wants to *know* — and why? (Perhaps because a small mistake in the beginning can lead to massive ones in the end?) Forgetting where we began, in wonder and amazement, seems a terrible waste of a gift, both to an individual and also to those whom they might later inspire with their mind and spirit.

    The fluidity of experience, and how it all “hangs together,” so to speak, should indeed inspire an ongoing sense of wonder throughout our lives. That the world presents itself to us as a coherent whole, that there is certainty, predictability (but also dissolution, doubt, fracture, unreliability), all lends great meaning to existence, should you desire to find it. We have a brief window upon it. Why waste it?

    As Aristotle writes in his Metaphysics: “Through wonder men began to philosophize, both now and in the beginning.” This is what impels us to gaze upon the heavens, to dream, to create worlds in our own minds, to tell stories, to recall memories — without wonder, what would we be? We desire, above all, to know. We are curious.

    As Reynolds Price put it: “A need to tell and hear stories is essential to the species Homo Sapiens — second in necessity apparently after nourishment and before love and shelter. Millions survive without love or home, almost none in silence; the opposite of silence leads quickly to narrative, and the sound of story is the dominant sound of our lives…”

    It might be argued that stories arise from our sense of wonder — why something is, or why it is not, what gave rise to it, why it is valuable, why it is not. See the world anew each morning — that you are in it. That in itself is a remarkable story. One exercise practiced by the French philosopher Simone Weil was to meditate upon an object and ask: “What is it?” while casting aside all preconceptions of its relationship to other things, as well as mental and physical associations she might have had upon a first glimpse. Abstracting from “what a thing is for” or “what purpose does this have for human” to ask “what *is* it, what makes it the thing it is?” opens up a land of wonder as you wrestle with the old questions of being, why there is something rather than nothing, and how (or if) you can ever truly say you know it.

    I would recommend: tell your own story. There are more people who will marvel and wonder at your gifts than you know.

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