This week has been packed with ‘wonder’, fortuitously coinciding with some personal contribution on the topic in the first airing of Kevin Watson’s ‘Words Matter’ podcast series. A portion, honing in on my long-term relationship with Albert Einstein’s quote “He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”
Wonder is my favourite word in the whole world, I shared. “A noun, a verb, an emotion, oozing with curiosity, imagination, and sense of awe”. ‘Wonder’ or ‘wonderment’, the experience of astonishment before the world! I would hope that the concept is taken quite seriously in my household, given large and continuous boosts of it from its three youngest members.
As half-term home-based activities subsumed my ‘space’ alongside my ongoing phenomenological research, the perfect marriage of philosophy and the potential of child-like wonder and openness was amplified. Begging ponderment of the question, so succinctly put by Schinkel (2019) “does wonder ‘merely’ inspire our search for meaning, or does it also point the way towards meaning?” And if a potential source of meaning, is it in life or of life? (ibid.).
A perfect gift this week was the ‘Swansea Science Festival Online’. Free access to shows, talks, workshops and tours. Too many incredible opportunities to list, but standout moments include bearing witness to my three gaining access to inspirations, explorers, authors, NASA astronauts, and CERN scientists. The children shared in voyages to undiscovered places with naturalist Steve Backshall, and turned our kitchen into a science lab with the wonderfully energetic science communicator, author and rapper, Jon Chase.
A personal ‘awe’ moment included my seven-year old having his question on black holes directly answered by Professor Brian Cox, right here in our living room. The implications on my children’s confidence, inspiration and ability to wonder, and further question, unquantifiable I suspect.
Yet, what made these specific interactions special, was the thread of the ‘unknown’, ‘unquantified’ and the ‘undiscovered’. This had been more than an opportunity to gather facts and knowledge, or develop logic. I had pondered over the impact of the interactions and experiments this week, a mature exposure to the vastness of the unexplained in the world, which left them with more questions than answers. But I soon factored this was empowering and quite appropriate for preparing them for futures that are now as uncertain and unpredictable as ever. Some fun preparation for their personal journeys. A taste of careers and mindsets for openness, inquisitiveness and imagination; a hunger for ideas and examples of just where this may lead.
Wonder is often claimed to be inspiration for, and the beginning of philosophy, art, and science (Schinkel, 2019).
Drawing down from another of my most favoured literary influences, Jostein Gaarder, famous for ‘Sophie’s World. I consider if I am subconsciously aspiring to develop philosophers…
“So now you must choose?
Are you a child who has not yet become world-weary?
Or are you a philosopher who will vow never to become so?
To children, the world and everything in it is new, something that gives rise to astonishment. It is not like that for adults. Most adults accept the world as a matter of course.[ …]
A philosopher never gets quite used to the world. To him or her, the world continues to seem a bit unreasonable – bewildering, even enigmatic. “
and I ‘wonder’ if this will eventually skill them fitfully for their futures. They will have their own minds to decide their course I’m sure. Nevertheless, I do hope they maintain their child wonder.
Gaarder, J. (1991) Sophie’s World. New York: Berkley Books
Schinkel, A. (2019) Wonder, Mystery, and Meaning, Philosophical Papers, 48:2, 293-319, DOI: 10.1080/05568641.2018.1462667
Swansea Science Festival Online 2020 https://www.swansea.ac.uk/research/in-the-community/swansea-science-festival/
main image: adapted photo by Greg Rakozy