Did you ever read David Foster Wallace’s 2004 Gourmet magazine article, “Consider The Lobster”?
It’s about lobster (as you would expect), but really about consumption, alienation, and pain. It’s a Hell of a read.
I would also say it’s written with wonder. Please don’t choke on your tea.
I realize I’ve thrown the word “wonder” around in a few posts now, and I’d like to clarify what I mean by it. This does not mean I seek to clarify how you experience wonder. It means I would like to lay out the assumptions I make when I use it as a verbal shortcut.
In short, when that five-letter word shows up, I’m not thinking about unicorns and sparkles1.
Wonder: the capacity to be surprised, to acknowledge the world is not as you thought. The compulsive desire to push beyond the easy answers.
It requires you to a) pay attention and b) be prepared to work on a moment’s notice.
When the world is not as you thought, when your mind betrays you, when you’re angry and you don’t know why – those are all experiences of wonder.
Those are all times when, if you’re paying attention, you say: something surprising is going on. Something is different. The world (this world, your world, any scale of world you choose) is changing, and the capacity to throw yourself at that change and seek its currents is the core of the experience of wonder.
If you’re willing to work with wonder, you won’t lack for things to talk about. The world is full of easy answers to be pushed beyond.
Now with that small matter out of the way, let’s get down to the real business: do you have an emergency plan for when the unicorns and sparkles show up?
For another, different perspective on wonder, head over to Syd Weedon’s post on A Small Blue Marble: A Lady Who Means Well and Gives Free Advice on the Internet.
1 In fact, I REFUSE to talk about them. At least since the Unicorns & Sparkles Incident was successfully hushed up. You didn’t hear about it here.
2 thoughts on “When I Talk About Wonder”
Great post. It sounds like the state of experiencing ‘wonder’ is synonymous with being engaged and present. It’s hard not to feel wonder when you allow yourself to observe and become immersed in the minutiae of your surroundings. But to live in such a state can be scary and exhausting, and is kind of antithetical to how we’re told the modern world operates.
Bleh. Why is it so difficult to express an earnest thought? (Maybe fodder for a future post!) My impulse is to mash the delete key and dismiss my comment as hippy-dippy ramblings.
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You’re definitely on to something with “being engaged.” I think individuals have different ways of coping with the unknown, and also with the known challenges. But if the goal is to get something positive out of these things, to “survive with style” to paraphrase Maya Angelou, then the ostrich approach isn’t an option.