curiosity, creativity, and compassion.

Wondering about Wonder

Here are 6 things I've learned about Wonder: 

Have you ever stopped, far away from the city, and looked up at the night sky on a clear night?  Have you gasped in wonder at the millions of stars twinkling against the velvety deep blue? 

As a scholar of religion for the past twenty years I studied how Hindu priests create and deploy wonder. But I always wondered, what does wonder DO in the world? What use is it?

1. As human beings we yearn to be surprised byWonder. 

The historian of science Lorraine Daston says “we yearn … to be surprised to our soul.” As children wonder comes easy to us. We gasp in wide-eyed wonder at almost everything and are moved by it. As we age life becomes tedious and burdensome and wonder recedes. But hidden within us is a deep need to wonder.

2. The core ofWonder is transformation. 

In wondering about the stars or a forest of trees or being moved by wonder in any way what really happens to us is a transformation. We are taken out of ourselves and moved to something much bigger. It is this change of scale that moves us to delight and awe.

3. Wonder is curiosity.

Once one has been moved by something wondrous we seek to know more about it. When one pats a dog for the first time or smells a rose, the sensation makes us curious. One begins to wonder about how things are the way they are. We are connected to it through our deep and powerful emotion. Wonderleads to curiosity about the world. We start to care about the world and what is in it.

4. Wonder is the basis of creativity and innovation.

As we wonder we begin to see problems around us. We think about how to solve them. Thus wonder leads us to creativity and to innovation. It is the goad for us to find solutions for all that we wonder about.

5. Wonder makes us compassionate. In being curious and in understanding where we are in the world, wonder awakens empathy in us. We start to care about the natural world around us, or people who might look different but have an essential humanity. Wonder brings us to compassion, for the earth, for others and for ourselves.

6. Finally,Wonder gives us hope for a better tomorrow.

In our curiosity, our creativity and our compassion we find in us and around us the hope for a better tomorrow. This is not an individual hope, not a hope of making life better for me or for my family, not the corrosive antisocial hope that capitalism breeds in us. No, this hope is a social hope, a hope that makes us reach out and connect across boundaries and borders. This wondrous hope is transformative of us and transforming of everything around us.

Today, we need social hope more than ever before. It is our guiding light that will bring us through the dark night.