The Prompt: “Wonder. How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?” (Author: Jeff Davis)
The use of “whilst” is a dead giveaway that the title of this post is not my own. Indeed, it’s a line from Nature, which is a text as close to a Bible as I get these days [someday, remind me to tell the story of the weekend I spent in a convent as a kid] in that it offers guidance for thoughts and actions yet also room (plenty of room) for interrogation. Anyway, this particular bit of Emerson works well for me, as I am always connected to hundreds of people—virtually, of course, via ye olde internet and especially the twitters. There’s a community there, and as communities go it shifts in both shape and size but has a solid core. Taking my community into consideration, I know there’s a group of people consistently interested in what I have to say—just as I’m consistently interested in what they have to say, and we learn from each other, and so on and so forth. I am always talking to someone—usually a group of someones—regardless if they know it at the time, or ever actually hear what I’m saying. In the end, it doesn’t matter; we all oscillate, and catch hold of whatever we want or need as we each pass by.
But back to the Emerson line. It comes at a point in the essay, early on, about going out and looking to the stars to “awaken a certain reverence” and so on. That “and so on” is pretty important, as it’s about how although the stars themselves are inaccessible, they, like all natural objects, can “make a kindred impression” when we open our minds to allow those impressions to be made. And, of course, there’s a difference (a pretty freaking huge difference) between allowing impressions to be made and, shall we say, putting the subject under a microscope: “Neither does the wisest man extort her secret, and lose his curiosity by finding out all her perfection.”
Or, looking at the stars and thinking you know what’s there, then moving on to the next thing—closing the door on the experience of wonder—ain’t gonna lead you to new insights: about the stars, about yourself, about what connections you might find between the stars and yourself, and how those insights shift in perspective and understanding over time.
If I were to apply a tagline to my life—at least my life of the last five years or so, the life I’ve been carefully cultivating—it would be that I like big nature and small creatures. The “small creatures” means kittens and puppies, to be sure, but also stands in for all the pieces stitched together in the “fabric of our lives” such as it were. This is an Emerson thing, also a Muir thing; for Emerson “the invariable mark of wisdom is to see the miraculous in the common,” and Muir focused intently on and found divinity “in the marvel of creatures vitally connected to one another in ecological harmony.”
So, to cultivate a sense of wonder consistently, I simply try to see past what is presented, to think deeply about what I see, and—no matter how many walls I might construct—always keep that space open to peek out, to witness the small things and celebrate them, and to hold tight to the feeling it evokes (but not so tight that it “lets them slip through our fingers then when we clutch hardest”).
[Emerson is always very helpful.]
[This post is part of Reverb 10 “an annual event and online initiative to reflect on your year and manifest what’s next.” This is my post #4.]