The Art of Wonder

Each month, Michele Blumberg talks to the parents of the StoryValues Story Club, addressing current issues and concerns. Last week, March 13, Michele spoke about The Art of Wonder. Here is what she had to say!

The Art of Wonder 

Today I want to talk about the art of wonder and the different kinds of wonder we can cultivate and experience with our families. I think this is important to speak about right now as the various restrictions the current times are placing on our lives can present an incredible opportunity to experience a renewed sense of wonder and imagination.

I know that sounds backwards doesn’t it? I mean how can being stuck at home for most of the time increase a sense of wonder- doesn’t it just promote boredom and dullness?

 Well, certainly that can happen and probably all of us have experienced some of that in the past year, but it doesn’t have to be chronic- in fact I am encouraging a state of chronic wonder instead!

Ever notice how often Cheryl says the word “wonder”? She always asks the children what they wondered about the stories and the ideas and characters in them. Every time she does this she is growing their capacity for wonder. Sometimes, we don’t quite know what we are wondering about, having someone ask us directly opens a door into our own curiosity. Wonderment is a big part of StoryValues.

Think back to something that inspired a sense of wonder in you when you were a child. Most people can recall at least one thing. It may have been something in nature like the ocean, the sound of an owl, sometimes it is an idea that invoked a sense of awe, sometimes we found it in art, drama, music or spirit. But encountering wonder is always inspiring and something that sparks curiosity and is often unforgettable.

A sense of wonder is something we all recognize in children and wish to preserve. As adults we often wish we could still easily feel that sense of absorption into imagination and curiosity. Well, maybe there are some simple ways to reconnect with wonder.

But first- what is wonder anyway?? Plato said it is the origin of philosophy and involved a sense of the mysteries that pervade being human, which inspires us to ask questions. So, wondering leads to curiosity and curiosity inspires action that causes more wondering. Children, naturally endowed with this sense, begin early to wonder about the state of being human, alive and now.

Not being quite as bound to language, time and reason as the adult mind they will express these wonderings through play, art and imagination. This is one of the reasons they are so attracted to the stories Cheryl tells. In his famous book- The Uses of Enchantment- Dr Bruno Bettleheim points out that in fairy tales, legends and fables children “find themselves” and “manoever through many of their their anxieties and dilemas. Watch any children at play and you will see the essence of these stories in action.

 Many decades ago Rachel Carson, who wrote primarily about the threats to the survival of the natural world in a book called Silent Spring also, wrote a book for children called- A Sense of Wonder. In it she asks this important question, which goes to the heart of how we can all keep our sense of wonder healthy and alive. She wrote- “One way to open your eyes is to ask yourself- “What if I had never seen this before, what it I never saw it again? “

Contemplate that for a moment.

 In many ways, that is precisely how children are functioning. There are many things that have never seen before, and they really do not fully know if they will ever see them again. These simple questions can really knock the rust off your sense of wonder and wake you up.

 In my last little talk about resilience I introduced a practice I call “Fresh Eyes”. I invited you to look at something in your day to day environment that you simply take for granted and try to see it with fresh eyes. I think I used my toaster as an example, I noticed shape, color and contour. Continuing with the toaster analogy I could now add Rachel’s questions-what if I had never seen this before, what if I never saw it again?

 Now get out of the kitchen and take those questions for a walk. Take your family with you, knock the winter and Pandemic rust right off and find the magic and wonder that is ever present and all around us. Get curious, find little wonders in the air, the earth, the water. See what questions Walking with Wonder can bring you.  Ask each other- “I wonder what you thought about that? I wonder what you saw, what you felt, what you heard… make wonder questions a part of your every day and you will see that inspiration rise up to meet you.

 One day, long ago and far away, when I had a little school in a little town a tiny girl stood on the playground looking up. On her face were a dozen different emotions as she asked over and over “What IS THAT?? What IS THAT?” I looked up to see if I could identify what she was seeing and help her name it. Was it a tree? No. Was it a bird? No. Finally, I realized this was the first time she had ever noticed clouds. Big, white, fluffy clouds were blowing across the sky that morning and the sun was peeking in and out as they passed by, changing the light every few minutes. Before I labelled this phenomenon for her and started ‘explaining’ I simply joined in her observations, privileged once again to just be in the moment at the gateway of wonder.

Hoping you all can find some fresh eyes, real wonder and lively curiosity in the upcoming days!                                                                                      

Michele Blumberg