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In Favor of Wonder

“Sadly it is not only the force of gravity we get used to as we grow up. The world itself becomes a habit in no time at all. It seems as if in the process of growing up we lose the ability to wonder about the world. And in doing so, we lose something central—something philosophers try to restore. For somewhere inside ourselves, something tells us that life is a huge mystery. This is something we once experienced, long before we learned to think the thought.” — Jostein Gaarder, Sophie’s World: A Novel About the History of Philosophy

Gaarder’s premise is sound: We come into the world full of wonder, but as we grow up being alive becomes a habit. We reach a point where we think we’ve seen it all before and grow comfortable with the general act of our daily existence. Each day remains a miracle, but the vast majority of people take it for granted. What a pity.

I’ve been working to break this habit in myself for years through deep immersion in philosophy, poetry, history, travel and the deliberate process of savoring the moment. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I slip into the routine of the day-to-day. But every day I try to begin with reflection on this miracle of being alive. The blog forces me to stay in this lane, if only for a short while, before work and responsibilities draw my attention elsewhere. But I always strive to return to wonder.

What if instead of returning to wonder we found a way to stay on the dance floor with it? Not in some stupor or drug-induced high, but through deliberate focus on each moment. Turning the habit of living day-to-day on its head and instead embracing heightened awareness and the quiet delight available to us in each encounter along the way. Isn’t that taking the act of living to a higher level?

We all want more wonder and delight in our lives, for it’s the frosting on our cake—our exclamation point on our moments. The thing is, to break the old habit of merely living, we’ve got to favor wonder and make it a regular part of us. Like any habit, it becomes a part of our identity through consistency. That’s putting the wonder in a full life.

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