Recently I blogged about about how we often fail to see the wonder of the people we encounter, and because of that lack of vision, fail to treat others with respect and kindness. Since writing that piece, I listened to an NPR interview with Sarah Kay, a spoken-word poet. (I highly recommend visiting her website; her work and outreach are amazing.)
In her interview she talks about her work with teenagers saying at one point that she is trying to get people to “rediscover wonder”.
That’s when I started thinking. Perhaps the reason we do not see the magnificence in others is because we have lost our sense of wonder. And maybe it’s our sense of wonder that makes us human, that sets us apart from the other animals on this earth.
I’ve lamented that children seem to be losing their “innocence” and gaining “attitude” earlier—far earlier than we used to. You can see it in the eyes of children if you compare pictures across generations.
But I don’t think it’s the innocence that’s lost.
It’s the wonder. And it’s been replaced with cynicism and harshness and an inability to experience, deeply and truly, emotion.
Our children are being raised in a world where people on TV take pills to feel happy, but nobody lives life in order to really experience that far more rewarding emotion: joy. Joy, the emotion that requires us to live and feel loss, to love and feel warmth, to open our eyes, ears and minds and experience wonder. It’s a much harder emotion than “happy”, one that requires work and will never come from a pill.
Our children are being raised in a world where “focus, focus, focus” is the mantra, and because we have become so “focused”, we cannot see anything.
The smallest children understand wonder. You can see it when they lollygag to catch a snowflake on their tongue, and we push them hurriedly inside. Or when they stop to count how many different song birds they can hear on their way from the car to the door. Or when they pick up a pebble on a roadside because, even though you know it’s just a purchased, insignificant piece of pea gravel, they know it’s pretty. And they express wonder at it. You and I don’t see these things; we crush the pebble underfoot.
We lack wonder. Or, we are afraid to express our wonder.
Because we don’t emote in this society. We rage, but we do not allow ourselves depth of feeling. The adult who stops to admire the crystalline design in a piece of gravel, frankly, is thought to be a bit daft.
The elders in our society understand wonder. They meet someone, like the TSA worker at the airport, and at the end of a two-minute encounter, know the person’s entire family history and how it might link to their own. Why? Because they see the wonder in other people. They are genuinely glad to make new connections. They aren’t afraid of emotion, of sharing stories, of connecting to the world around them.
They can tell you how many cherries are on the tree in the back yard or when the apple tree blossomed for the last 10 springs or how many minutes and seconds we have gained in day length over the last week—not because they are retired and have time, but because they have a sense of wonder.
It is no wonder that children love their grandparents.
We live in a society that goes too fast to respect the wisdom of its elders and to look with awe at the lives they have led and wisdom they have gained. We live in a world that is too focused to value the rambling, random discoveries of its children. And, as a result, I fear we are losing the very thing that makes human.
© 2012 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.