(Author’s note: Be sure to check out the links on this one…)
I had the pleasure last week of watching, for the umpteenth time, “Goonies.” You might remember this classic Spielberg movie (aren’t they all?) about a group of kids embarking upon a fantastic adventure in a quest to save their homes from a greedy real estate developer. Sean Asten’s character (Mikey, with the asthma inhaler) has a speech in this film which reminds us of why we all love Mr. Spielberg: his uncanny sense of pure, unadulterated wonderment.
We are all born with this attribute, wonderment. In fact, having a sense of wonder about the world into which we, as newborns, found ourselves unceremoniously dropped (hopefully not on our heads), is critically important in order for each of us to figure out what the heck someone else has gotten us into here.
And so, it begins: Watch a toddler play in the bathtub—she’s learning how water works. Or a five-year-old boy down on his elbows and knees in the garden with his nose two inches from an inchworm as it makes its way across the soil. How does it do that? What about those two-year-olds as they test out how to manipulate their parents with screams and tantrums, hugs and kisses? Why is the sky blue? What is this thingy between my legs for?
Sure enough, every one of us is born with this inherent sense of curiosity and awe. Okay, sometimes we first had to get past the terror of discovery (remember little Gertie in E.T.?). But, then again, that is what growing up is all about: learning. And the interest in learning. It is what every good teacher from pre-school through high school tries to incubate in his or her classroom: curiosity, amazement, wonderment. What is that?! How does it work? Let me try! I bet I can do that!
For many of us who have long ago reached adulthood, we will likely find ourselves waking up one Saturday morning and, while staring blankly at the slowly rotating ceiling fan above our beds, realize that our sense of wonderment has ebbed away into the ether like the electric charge in a pack of old AAA batteries in the junk drawer in the kitchen—and we didn’t even know it.
We became distracted. Hey, we had wars to fight. Diplomas, certifications and degrees to be earned. We no longer really cared about how water works—figured that out a long time ago. Life became work. The days became long and hard. Our emotions were worn to a frazzle. “Just gimme a break, will ya?” We grew up.
But don’t worry. There remains a “wonderment” pilot light in each of us. We simply have to find a way to turn up the dial. Some of us will accomplish this by raising children (or grandchildren—read “Hank and Little Henry” in Days Seven), who will remind us of how we were when it was “our time,” as Mikey says. Thus, our own sense of wonder will be resuscitated as we observe our children experience the sheer delight in being alive.
Yet others may simply need to stop for a moment and remember how to notice the things around them. After all, our environment, the world in which we live, is what wonderment is all about.
This revitalized awareness, of course, might best be spurred by a temporary change of scenery such as one might find on a road trip. Or being re-introduced to nature on a long and arduous hike in the woods. Or while standing atop a snow-covered mountain. Or during a sea voyage. Or with the adoption of a pet. Or by falling in love. Again. Or by watching a Spielberg movie.
Whatever works. But, don’t let that pilot light go out, or all is lost.