Only wonder

It is only wonder.

Oh, really? Tell it to the girl who can’t stop looking at this yellow butterfly fluttering by to one flower at a time. Or to the boy who’d give his next bar of chocolate to know where that stroke of lightning vanished to. Tell it to me, who firmly believes only simply cannot be used as a modifier for this emotion.

Or can it?

Have you ever experienced the wonder of waking up in the arms of the one you love? Or the depth ofΒ  joy at being told the sun is finally shining after weeks of seemingly endless rain? Or have you got wet under that refreshing, pervasive rain after just having said you’d personally go and bomb down the sun god if he didn’t move away? No, wonderment is not an emotion that can go very well with only.

Consider this, though — what if you were to realise that to fully comprehend wonder, you need to acknowledge that wonder is not wonder, but only a means of entertainment or relaxation, unless it makes you reach a newer plane, a newer sense of understanding? How would your experience of that feeling change? What new insight would you sense in the arms of the loved one, under the sun, or between the raindrops? What newer plane will a now-cool, now-warm drop of rain on your forearm take you to? Will this bit of rain on your toenail open up a new dimension of understanding? Or the one on your nose, and the one on your head? And oh look! now they’re everywhere! What newer plane have you reached? Did you travel from point A to point B during those few minutes the sun god panicked at your nuclear threat, and allowed water to quench your thirst?

Wonderment is an interest that at once brings joy, admiration and an urge to know more. Without this urge, wonder would be either joy, or admiration.

It adds more charm to the entire process of opening your senses and acknowledging all that they experience, wouldn’t you say? All of a sudden, this feeling isn’t simply a feeling of marvelling at the depth of it all. The curiosity makes room for an important activity — that of understanding the value of this depth, and, in some cases, its mechanics and processes. Some people are able to make use of this understanding to build bridges, dam rivers, design Tetra Pak and invent post-its. Sometimes, all some people can do it just grin with this knowledge, and then grin more. And learn to know and understand; the learning deepening with each experience.

I am not a scientist discovering path-breaking facts or inventing equally terrific concepts to revolutionise, and bring further wonderment. I am a wonderer, I allow these little wonders to fill me up until every cell within me can say that it has experienced the knowledge of understanding that all is all right, even though it may not seem so — that there is wonderment in everything. In a tortoise struggling to climb up and drag its weary feet over and beyond a stone (which, by the way,Β  is just a stone for you, but a mountain for it). Or in that clever aluminium-and-cork bottle stopper that keeps even wine as good as old. Or, agree or not, in that beggar’s shiny white teeth.

I travel from point A to point B, each time reaching a newer plane of belief that as long as there are eyes to see and mind to fathom, wonders never cease.

Some scientists believe that the ability to wonder, to be curious about, interested in something or someone — to feel the joy of admiration — is what separates humans from animals. Wonder separates science from religion, some believe. Religion sprouts from awe, while science from wonderment. These aren’t my original thoughts. I read about them on Wikipedia. I urge you to visit it here. It is wonderful how this marvellous emotion defines our innermost being. When I first thought of writing about it yesterday, I thought of the wonder of the beautiful, now experienced, now forgotten things like rain after a hot day, sunshine after a dull one — of the feeling of wonder towards the miraculous, the pleasing. But today, I know that it impresses me as probably the most influential of all the emotions, for it encourages thoughtful action, pulls towards improvement.

Note: If you came here to look for a post called 2020 yesterday or the day before, let me tell you, it wasn’t me that bungled it up. It was Flag Counter, the swanky new thing on my blog that tells me just how many of you are secretly clicking to my blog and from just how many places. Cool, eh? Let’s all forgive Flag Counter for not making Apps for Dummies, then.

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37 thoughts on “Only wonder”

  1. I love the distinction you make in this post. There is casual curiosity, which we all experience many times a day as we coast along the surface of life. But every once in a while, we’re stopped in our tracks by that sense of wonder. It pulls us down deep under the surface and we re-emerge in a new place, with little or no sense of having traveled through time or space — yet somehow things are different. Whether it’s with words or images (and it’s usually both), your posts always help me to slow down, and look and think more closely. You manage to inspire wonder every time. And now you’ve caused me to wonder about wonder itself.

    1. Charles, you’re good for my ego. Every time I read a comment from you, I feel like I’ve crossed another bridge towards writing better. Thank you. Keep at it, you never know, powered by your compliments, someday I’ll be in a position to send you a signed copy of my very first book. And if I am not, your words won’t be wasted, they’ll still warm my writer’s pigeon heart.

      I hope you read the Wikipedia article on wonder. It opens up a whole new world of possibilities for thought and wondering.

  2. Priya this is wonderful. I love the falling rain at the end, too. As I was reading, I received an email from my sister. She signed the email “just wondering”. Fitting. I would say not only is it impossible to ‘only’ wonder, it is also impossible to ‘just’ wonder.

    There is not a day that goes by that I don’t have moments of wonder. My childlike wonder thrives. When I stop and truly listen to my boys, I see wonder through their eyes, and I smile. There is not an insect that crosses their path that does not leave the boys with a sense of wonder.

    This is a very moving post. Thank you for sharing it with us. ~ Lenore

    1. Bringing up children must be like living in a constant state of wonderment. It also seems to me that you let your boys explore, wonder. That must add to the emotional learning, and intellectual growth. Congrats, Lenore. I have strong faith in such instinctive development. It somehow beats all the things psychologists and pseudo-psychologists tell us to do.

      I like to see you here, because you bring in wisdom. Thank you.

  3. Priya I think you wrote this for me. I too wonder about everything – that’s why my blog’s called WONDERING ROSE – but I haven’t been able to express it as well as you.

    I also really love the falling rain slide-show. I’m watching it as I write this….

    1. I am glad the slideshow worked for you and Lenore. I wanted to adjust the timing, so that the simulation of the rain could be improved, but didn’t know how to.

      Your blog name is what attracted me to your blog, Rosie. And then your Museum Musings confirmed that you indeed are a Wondering Rose. My favourite post in your blog in the recent past, however, has much more than the musing, it has exemplified what I’ve tried to say here in this post — look, wonder, and seek answers. In the case of your post, the answer was information about rusks.
      http://rosannefreed.wordpress.com/2011/05/28/my-morning-coffee-and-a-rusk/

  4. I have had several occasions of wonder recently. Today alone I spent four hours at our local zoo with my two young sons, wondering at the variety of animals. The Amur tigers, the lions, the penguins, the polar bears…they all fill me with awe and with questions–how do they exist, how do they survive, what motivates them?

    Then after spending four hours at the zoo, we went to the local swimming pool. It seemed like everyone in our town was there. The variety of human beings–their shapes, their personalities, their features, their habits–was astounding. It made me wonder about many things. And then I looked up into the beautiful, blue sky.

    It was such a wonderful day. It was almost painful, as intense pleasure can sometimes be.

    1. Siberian tigers are huge! Nainital zoo had one such tiger. He could be seen from the other hill! Let me explain. Nainital, a small town made up of mountains forming a cup-like shape, has a zoo on one hill top. The widest distance between the ‘rim’ of the cup must be approx. 2 1/2 km as the crow flies. The tiger could be seen from the other end. Wow, no?!

      You wonder, Kevin. And that’s a good thing.

  5. Priya, I’m taken with the concept that “Religion sprouts from awe, while science from wonderment.” that, I understand, is from Wiki. I’ll look it up, but I am enchanted with a whole new project that you’ve given me. I now have to figure out when I am in awe and when I am in wonderment. I do hope you have a clear cut response… πŸ™‚

    1. The entire concept is very new to me, too, Amy. And like you, I am enchanted with it.

      A few friends and I were travelling through a region in the Himalayas several years back. I saw sun’s rays streaming down from behind a thick veil of clouds; almost divine. My instant reaction was of security, as if the rays were reassuring me that all was well. When I told this to one of the friends, he said, “You depend too much on symbolism, don’t you?” I could not explain to him then, and words fail me today, that awe and wonderment, science and spirituality, could never really be too far away from each other.

      1. Priya – thanks for your response. At times I am moved to tears with just that sort of setting. I hope your friend’s ‘chastisement’ did not spoil it for you. Some are simply not, nor can be, with us in those moments.

        I treasure your insights.

      2. “Some are simply not, nor can be, with us in those moments.” This is how I see the world, Amy. And it allows me to never let such moments get spoiled. Some learn late in life. πŸ™‚

  6. You write such powerful posts, Priya. Powerful in a subtle way – a way that makes me stop and, well, wonder. Thank you. My most favorite word is “Wanderlust,” which is, quite obviously, a play on “wonderlust.” For me, there is nothing more calming than a serene and thoughtful pause to contemplate the most simple pleasures – like a drop of rain on one’s nose. Why is it a pleasure? Because it makes us stop and wonder!

    1. AA, my work is done if this is what my posts do. Thank you.

      I love the word wanderlust, too! It incorporates so much in it. In fact so much, that I can even forgive one of my ex-employers for using the word to name his money-guzzling tour operating company.

  7. Sadly, I think far too many of us, perhaps are losing the capacity for wonder. Thousands of us would have to unplug the technology, remove the iPod earbuds, turn off our cellphones long enough to experience silence –which might then allow the wonder to happen. I fear that this gift for wondering is being lost. Can it be gained thru practice? Thank you, Priya for writing about a topic that is near to my heart. By the way, I never would have figured out what all the little mounds of dirt, with the one pine needle protruding thru the hole were, if I had not bent close to the ground and wondered what they were.

    1. “..the little mounds of dirt, with the one pine needle protruding thru the hole…” Oh, Jean, I wish I knew what you were talking about! Could you please tell me?

      Wonderment is fading, yes. But it couldn’t go extinct if you and I exist. If it does, though, our kind will become redundant. Which could save a lot of the others. πŸ™‚

  8. For those of us who can wonder, it is the ultimate luxury of life. But think how sad life is for those who have never wondered. I’m not sure the if ability to wonder comes by nature or nurture, but I think more nurture, being in an environment that encourages conversation, reading, and dreaming.

    The rain drop photos are phenomenal and I am sure that big drop on the left just splashed my shoe.

    I wonder how old you were yesterday! Happy Belated! πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you! I turned 35 or 36. I never know how to count my age, EOS! It amazes me how I was one age on 31 May, and the other on 1 June.

      I believe it is both nature and nurture. For, how could you stop a newborn kid from looking at new things, and wondering at their significance in the days to come? (I am sure a baby must have that brain cell that wonders things like “Why is he making that silly face?” “Ugh. I’d have liked yellow. Will they always make me wear a red bib?” By the time they become too putty-like in the hands of the world, nurture takes over.

  9. Priya, I had these tiny mounds throughout my entire yard! I was so perplexed. One day, I dug down about an inch and discovered an earthworm! Then I looked online and found out that this is what the worms do. But I still wonder why the mark their hole with the pine needle!

  10. Once again, Priya, your beautiful and thoughtful words have moved me! I am currently practicing meditation again (I aim for two times a day for however many minutes…I shoot for 10 but sometimes make it to 20) And I’ve found that this has profoundly changed my life again. In incredible ways.

    Not only am I able to have a more peaceful, calm mind during the day, but I am finding that I am constantly struck in awe at the simple things all around me. I was sitting outside with the kids last week and everything seemed sacred: the grass, the leaves rustling, the warm sun on my face. How amazing everything around me is, just for the simple fact that it exists!

    When I think about wonder (isn’t it just like a human to wonder about wonder!) I imagine how we all start out in this life full of astonishment and curiousity. How does that bumblebee find the flower? What is lightning?Then we either start to lose that sense as we grow older and our curiosity dulls or we choose to keep cultivating and appreciating wonder. I am determined to always learn and always question and forever be humbled by my existence in such a glorious world. Makes for a peaceful heart and mind.

    Thank you for this post and happy belated birthday!

    1. Anyone practicing deliberate meditation every day is very high in my esteem. Twice a day makes you sit right on top of Mount Everest, as far as I am concerned. Great going, Darla!

      (How do you manage to do it, by the way?)

      Thank you for the birthday wishes. I did indeed have a happy one.

      1. Thanks, Priya. Like I tell my husband, it is really so simple all you have to do is commit to taking the time out of the day. I only started doing it twice a day recently. A good friend of mine told me that she meditates twice a day and she has three young kids that she homeschools, so what was my excuse? πŸ˜‰ Plus, she informed me that if I try it for a few weeks, I am guaranteed to see my life change in big ways. So I try to sit still every morning, first thing before the kids wake and then I try again in the evening. I am slowly getting into the habit.

  11. You know, I never wondered much about the word “wonder” before! Except in that movie “That Thing You Do” where the band was named the One-ders, and changed to the Wonders so it wouldn’t be mispronounced as the oh-nee-ders. (Tom Hanks, Liv Tyler… did you see it? It’s a great movie. Definitely about the power of wonder.)

    I think you captured it best when you said it’s all about the charm. What a perfect way to describe it. It’s not just thinking or admiring, but it’s something a little… more. And charm is such a happy, open-your-eyes-and-take-notice word.

    Great post! I’ll be wondering about it for a while… πŸ™‚

      1. I must see this movie. It sounds like something I’d like.

        And what a beautiful way to describe the word charm! It’ll stay with me.

        I had a great time on my birthday, Melissa. Wonderful, even. Only to later get into packing and shifting to a new house. Am writing to you from it, which is what explains the delay in responding to your message.
        * and I hope that now that I’ve explained why I wrote back two days late, I’ll be able find peace. My ‘feel guilty’ gene is too strong to care for practicality, see? πŸ™‚ *

  12. Belated Happy Birthday, Priya.

    It is this sense of wonder that I try to capture in my fiction (and fail much more than I succeed)– the way beautiful things are sometimes Beautiful, ‘ugly’ things are beautiful, each common thing and act and person and bird and animal is beautiful…it is for our eyes to see, and our hearts and minds and soul to wonder.

    Thank you for another ‘wonder’ful post πŸ™‚

    1. Thank you, Damyanti, the birthday was good. So was the shifting thereafter. Allow me to feel sorry for not responding to you any earlier because of that.

      You capture all the wonder there is in your stories, Damyanti. Without fail. And the ‘ugly’ things that are beautiful are the ones that find a heart-wrenchingly accurate depiction in your work. It is stupendous. Always.

    1. The observations you write about on your blog show that you are already doing it, Thomas.

      Thank you for appreciating, and letting me know, too!

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