I just read an interesting article with a very evocative title: “As the World Lost Its Sense of Wonder and Majesty, So did Jurassic Park”. The article goes on to ponder that thread , but left me on a trek of my own, to articulate my own rumination of wonder.
Our bodies lose sensitivity. I picked up a piece of metal, hot from hours in the sun, and although I registered the pain, I did not flinch, nor cease the work I had engaged in, knowing the pain would subside as I worked. I remembered watching my Uncle with admiration at his labor in the sun, handling some piece of metal that I could not poke at for the pain it caused me, and how he didn’t belittle my pain, and protected me with warning, and care. Then, I thought the becoming of a man was the perseverance of pain, and aspired to such. I realize now the thing I admired was the care he could afford to show, whatever his own situation, which he did time and time again.
In the reliquary of science, ontogeny recapitulates phylogeny. I have wondered if to some extent phylogeny predicts ontogeny; that the whole imitates the individual, that we as a society lose sensitivity with age. This is probably only true if we poison the stream: if we expose the source of our societal refreshment, our children, to the unfiltered toxins we as adults consume daily, then the source of the spring becomes contaminated too. We regularly lock our doors but leave the powerful worldwide windows of screens wide open for the strangers of the world to enter into the senses of our children: unmonitored, unfiltered media can carry cynical and violent messages which affect them.
I think of Macbeth, “There was a time when I would have been terrified by a shriek in the night, and the hair on my skin would have stood up when I heard a ghost story. But now I’ve had my fill of real horrors. Horrible things are so familiar that they can’t startle me.” The ebbing of humanity with each tide of rationalization that excuses us from a loss of care is broadcast on networks in groupthink, to quell the shock of deeper atrocity and crimes against humanity that are simulcast with the more graphic images, the more visceral audio. The drill must go further, and more shockingly down to find the threshold which affects the receding nerve. This approach is something to be wary of.
My father retained a sense of wonder and respect throughout his life. A doctorate in Geology helped him in this regard, I think. He would pause on road trips to read to us the tomes of the land whose spines were legible to him in strata, books he would read to us along the way. The wonder of the world never escaped his grasp, even as stratigraphic tomography did.
Working with children as a teacher, vicariously re-discovering the thrill of realization has been my own connection to wonder. Parents who are aware of their own child’s interpretation of the world, as I have sometimes been with mine, are allowed passage back into those cathedral spaces. The value of being an advocate to those people who are fresh into the world, who see the dead-ends in some of our misdirections, and still courageously move forward seeking new solutions, is that you can become that again. I get to take those people to the places of discovery, and they take me back to the place of wonder I love.