Wonderment

(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.

Red Bud City

Here’s a little musical ode to my idyllic hometown of Buchanan, Michigan, also known as Red Bud City. Hope you like it.

Clyde’s dale

I’ve always loved horses. Probably because, as I’ve noted in earlier essays, I was raised on a seemingly unending series of TV westerns during my childhood back in the 50’s (remember this? Cowboys and Cowgirls)…

2 comments

    How true this is. The great American mythologist, Joseph Campbell, spent a great deal of his time and his life educating his students to this great truth. We must not forget that the ‘extraordinary’ is simply ‘extra-ordinary’ and that the mystery of existence which engenders wonder is to be found everywhere and every-when. In my opinion, it’s the slowing of the rational mind with all of its ‘answers’ and regaining the wonderful ‘ignorance’ of the child…becoming childlike…and waking up to the present moment without the interference of ‘thought’ that graces us again with this wonder.

    Campbell was famous for saying that ‘We are so engaged in doing things to achieve purposes of OUTER value that we’ve forgotten it’s the INNER value, the rapture that’s associated with just being alive that it’s really all about’ (emphasis mine). If religion (from the Latin ‘Relegare’: ‘to be linked to’) wasn’t so steeped in superstition, it would do this for us….would reconnect us (or ‘link’ us back) to the mystery…but the messages of Jesus in particular and the many other ‘masters’ in addition, have been so convoluted and misunderstood as to lead us to exactly the opposite point of view. Pity, this. It’s up to us to understand and act on this but, for the most part, people have neither the time nor desire as they’ve been co-opted by a culture that, as John Kenneth Galbraith pointed out, doesn’t satisfy desire, but creates it, trying to fill the void that we all feel inside through consumer consumption or the innumerable other ‘sirens’ that we find so prevalent among us. Who you perceive yourself to be determines what you think you need, and since we think (and are taught) that we are ‘separate from’ the rest of the Universe instead of KNOWING that we are, in fact, the Universe ‘experiencing Itself’ we will continue to be distracted into the act of continuous and seemingly necessary consumption and away from the very wonder and awe that would, otherwise, fill that emptiness, which, as it turns out (and this is the great cosmic joke) is SELFLESSNESS ITSELF.
    But….don’t get me started…….

    That is exactly what has kept me captivated in my work for 30+ years! Creating experiences for guests of all ages, that inspire, educate, puzzle, challenge and energize both the body and the mind never grows old. I watch grown people rediscover their inner child, and little people discover their world; and woven into it all is laughter and camaraderie between co-workers, new friends and acquaintances. It definitely keeps me young at heart!

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