Pause and Experience Wonder
BY: T. Franklin Murphy | May 2018 (edited February 9, 2021)
Learning from wonderment. Finding wisdom and integrating knowledge through wonderment.
Today, I sit in a university library, surrounded by rows of books, countless chronicles of human discovery and knowledge. The meager crumbs of wisdom I have gathered over the last half century seems insignificant and trivial. In stunned wonderment, I ponder the massive collections of knowledge. For a moment, I try to put m feelings of insignificance into words, but then, I pull back, allowing wonderment to teach. My mind slowly gives way to raw feeling, no judgments and no words.
Individual Knowledge is Limited
Before my existential search began, I knew so much less; but believed I knew so much more. The ignorance of youth awards security through unqualified competence. Perhaps, the courageous child only explores because of innocence to the dangers. As we progress, delving into expansive unknowns, we gain faith, not in security of the known, but in our capabilities to navigate the unknowns.
Wonderment is a psychological state of awed amazement.
Wisdom Bestowed Through Wonderment
Immanuel Kant wrote, “Two things awe me most, the starry sky above me and the moral law within me.” Research continually unveils new discoveries. Relatively unexplored frontiers of behavior and the mind are full of exciting undiscovered knowledge.
Investing precious time in exploring expands our understanding. Leaning is a honorable endeavor. We can, as I did today, slip into a library, or search through the abundance of information available at our fingertips; but written words are limited. Sometimes, we must put down the book, close the computer, and get lost in wonder.
"Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see, and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious."
Experience teaches powerful lessons. We can read about compassion but do absorb the words—the mere letters on a page—into knowledge and feeling. Converting words into living knowledge is the source of life-directing wisdom.
Lessons absorbed express themselves through positive action. We may understand academically the science of neuronal communication but not recognize our emotions as they dance within our soul. A person well-versed in psychology may explain in clear vernacular their action but continue to struggle, unable to integrate the smooth articulation into living knowledge.
"Converting words into living knowledge creates life-directing wisdom."
Freeing our Mind from Anxiety
I often get distracted by the many duties of publishing and maintaining the Flourishing Life Society website, hoping to provide timely and helpful knowledge. I read, research and practice. But some of greatest achievements in wellness occur when I step away from the words and just experience the wonderment of life.
"The sea, once it casts its spell, holds one in its net of wonder forever."
~Jacques Yves Cousteau
When growing stalls, and life burdens, gathering more information may not be the answer. We must pause, giving our minds opportunity to integrate what we already know—start the diet, follow the budget, act with kindness. Many excel at academics but woefully lack integration. They seek to rectify confusion by seeking more facts; but facts fail to ignite change. Action is needed. Google all you want; but the internet searches never end, distracting but not motivating.
Great insights need time to percolate. This only happens when we set labels, words, and symbols aside and quietly absorb surrounding greatness. Lost in wonderment, we free ourselves of anxiety, appreciate the unknown universe, and invite great sources of hidden knowledge to descend and enliven our tired minds. Stop the narrative, feel the wonder.
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