Starry Night. Van Gogh. Wikimedia Commons.
“When our eyes are graced with wonder, the world reveals its wonders to us. There are people who see only dullness in the world and that is because their eyes have already been dulled. So much depends on how we look at things. The quality of our looking determines what we come to see.”
1. Letting Your Eyes Become ‘Graced With Wonder’
“What is sacred is what is worthy of our reverence, what evokes awe and wonder in the human heart, and what, when contemplated, transforms us utterly.”
In the previous two weeks’ posts I have explored how the world is a mirror for us, reflecting back our own (and others’) perspective of who we are.
This week I look at how our self-perception influences the amount of wonder we experience in the world around us.
Can we allow ourselves to feel wonder and awe, or is our viewing lens blurred by internal turmoil and unresolved anxiety about our identity?
If we can learn to accept and appreciate ourselves, without constantly looking at what we perceive as our faults, then the world’s imperfections will appear less important, leaving us more room and clearer vision to appreciate its wonders.
How we see the world around us is, to some extent, an individual choice. Our attitude determines our ways of seeing, and our perception of the outer world depends on our internal world.
“Human beings, by changing the inner attitudes of their minds, can change the outer aspects of their lives.”
Interior Exterior .Roger De Grey.Wikioo.org
“Your vision will become clear only when you can look into your own heart. Who looks outside, dreams; who looks inside, awakes.”
What does Jung mean in the above quotation? He is asserting that the only way we can see the world clearly is if we look inside at ourselves, into our own psyche.
Unless we know ourselves, we will see others, and the outside world, through a screen clouded by our own imaginings, projections and distortions.
In addition, we will be unaware of this bias, if we have not examined ourselves psychologically.
We have the choice to think differently, to appreciate in amazement and awe the wonders of the world, if we can work at coming to terms with who we are.
It is not always easy to face ourselves in this way, yet it can reap great rewards.
“You need to spend time crawling alone through shadows to truly appreciate what it is to stand in the sun.”
Monet. Monet’s Garden, The Irises. Wikioo.
“Love yourself. Then forget it. Then, love the world.”
Of course, we will all have different ways of seeing because we are different people.
The array of diversity around us, the many plants, animals and people, all with different characteristics, contributes to the whole, wondrous picture of the world in which we live.
Our diversity enables creativity, a working together, a blend of contrasting approaches and thoughts.
Take a look at the image below. How many different interpretations would there be if we could all say how we see this artwork?
We would have many and varied thoughts and conclusions about it.
“Mystery creates wonder and wonder is the basis of man’s desire to understand.”
We could decide to give it all kinds of positive or negative meanings. There is so much imagery in this work of surrealism, so much to focus on.
We can wonder and wonder about it, about its symbols, its implications and the thoughts and feelings behind it……..
The Therapist. Rene Magritte. Wikioo.
“The real voyage of discovery consists not in seeking new lands but seeing with new eyes.”
2. Working At Regaining Some Of The Wonder And Creativity We Had As Children.
“Do not ask your children
to strive for extraordinary lives.
Such striving may seem admirable,
but it is the way of foolishness.
Help them instead to find the wonder
and the marvel of an ordinary life.
Show them the joy of tasting
tomatoes, apples and pears.
Show them how to cry
when pets and people die.
Show them the infinite pleasure
in the touch of a hand.
And make the ordinary come alive for them.
The extraordinary will take care of itself.”
“The job of a teacher is to excite in the young a boundless sense of curiosity about life, so that the growing child shall come to apprehend it with an excitement tempered by awe and wonder.”
“Go out, go out I beg of you
And taste the beauty of the wild.
Behold the miracle of the earth
With all the wonder of a child.”
Einstein was very much able, as an adult, to maintain his childhood sense of wonder.
.Einstein At The Age Of Three. 1882. Wikimedia Commons.
Einstein. Flickr. (TNS Sofres.)
“Throughout his life, Albert Einstein would retain the intuition and the awe of a child. He never lost his sense of wonder at the magic of nature’s phenomena-magnetic fields, gravity, inertia, acceleration, light beams-which grown-ups find so commonplace. He retained the ability to hold two thoughts in his mind simultaneously, to be puzzled when they conflicted, and to marvel when he could smell an underlying unity. “People like you and me never grow old,” he wrote a friend later in life. “We never cease to stand like curious children before the great mystery into which we were born.”
How can we succeed in holding onto our childhood enthusiasm, whilst channelling it into adult life and work?
Einstein’s childhood fantasies and excitement became transformed into something creative, beautiful and lifelong.
“Wonder is the beginning of wisdom.”
Nothing is more heartwarming than to see a look of wonder on the face of a child.
The zest for life, the excitement, the energetic, open-mouthed, uninhibited exuberance of a happy and curious child is a joy to witness.
Illustration of Alfred Smedberg’s The Seven Wishes in Julbocken, 1907. Wikimedia Commons.
“Children see magic because they look for it.”
Sadly, we often lose our childhood sparkle, the magic, the youthful wonder and awe, and we cannot maintain it in our daily lives.
Why is this? Why are people sometimes unenthusiastic, disenchanted, uninterested, indifferent, apathetic? What has happened to their wondering?
During childhood, everything is new and exciting. As we grow, the novelty often wears off. The aspects of life that excited us become less interesting with repeated exposure.
Reality creeps in and the daily routine of work faces us.
We may be so preoccupied that we fail to notice the leaves on the beech trees turning burnt-gold in Autumn, or hear the quick rustle and chatter of squirrels in its branches.
We adopt a social front and lose our youthful naivety. We meet disappointment, pain and loss. We become aware of our mortality.
Apathy, indifference, hopelessness, lethargy, passivity- these are all the opposite of wonder and awe. They are also some of the symptoms of depression.
Mystical Head: Closed Eyes. Jawlensky. Wikioo.
“He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”
It is important not to allow others to curb or dampen your sense of wonder.
Sometimes it is not easy to hold onto this capacity to still be fascinated and amazed and it may be that we need help to regain it.
Such help may be found in different kinds of psychotherapy, or in talking to a trusted friend, life coach or mentor.
Wonder is catching. Being with another who is brimming with passion and vitality for an idea, a cause, a work project, an invention, a book or a painting, is an infectious experience.
It can only be helpful to be in the company of people who are full of wonder.
“Always be on the lookout for the presence of wonder.”
Glimpsing again the wonder and awe that many of us had as children can involve focussing on feelings of gratitude, appreciating what we do have and developing aspects of ourself and our life in which we might experience wonder.
We can explore what it is that is holding us back, and take steps to deal with this.
In whatever way we work towards this aim, it is crucial that we develop awareness of self, especially in relation to how we see the world.
Awakening to the wonder of the world around us brings new feelings of life and energy, and the ability to play.
“The playing adult steps sideward into another reality; the playing child advances forward to new stages of mastery.”
Erik H. Erikson
That is something that, as adults, we may have forgotten, and might sometimes need to regain from childhood.
Play, at any age, means having fun, feeling excitement and a sense of letting go. It is important for adults to make time for play, and not overlook it in favour of work or responsibilities.
“In every real man a child is hidden that wants to play.”
Playing involves a relaxing of some fixed ways of thinking, not being too rule-bound, and allowing ourselves to have some enjoyable experiences, where possible, abandoning ourselves to some carefree time-out, often with others.
Such playing can enable us to recapture something of our past exuberance, our childhood sense of excitement and imaginative wonder at the world.
Fairies Looking Through A Gothic Arch. John Anster Fitzgerald. Wikimedia Commons.
If I had influence with the good fairy… I should ask that her gift to each child in the world be a sense of wonder so indestructible that it would last throughout life.
Rachel Carson (The Sense Of Wonder)
3. Learning To Appreciate The Beauty Around Us In The Moment.
Van Gogh. The Starry Night Over The Rhone. Wikimedia Commons.
“Nothing makes the light, the wonder, the treasure stand out so well as darkness.”
Clarissa Pinkola Estés
“Dwell on the beauty of life. Watch the stars, and see yourself running with them.”
We have, and continue to see and experience, great pain and loss all around us during the Covid-19 pandemic; it is difficult to feel wonder when we are grieving, ill or caring for loved ones.
Yet the beauty in the world is still there, waiting, until we are, each one of us, ready to appreciate it again.
There is so much in our world to wonder at and this may also bring us solace during difficult times.
“If you think of feelings you have when you are awed by something – for example, knowing that elements in your body trace to exploded stars – I call that a spiritual reaction, speaking of awe and majesty, where words fail you.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson
‘Beauty surrounds me daily. I learn to take notice.’
“Nature is painting for us, day after day, pictures of infinite beauty if only we have the eyes to see them.”
Van Gogh. The Green Field. Gandalf’s Gallery. Flickr
“Observe the wonders as they occur around you. Don’t claim them. Feel the artistry moving through and be silent……..”
“One cannot help but be in awe when
one contemplates the mysteries of eternity,
of life, of the marvelous structure of reality.”
Life may well be eternal, but for us humans, there is nothing permanent in our lives, including life itself; therefore we really need to enjoy what we have in the moment.
While we do have life, finding something to wonder at in each day is a powerful goal, a way to value our experience. Perhaps we can practise deriving pleasure from small things.
Can we find a moment to ‘stop and smell the roses?’
How often do we pause to discover the intricate and miraculous patterns of nature?
Can we discern these patterns across species, and then see them reflected across our world?
“Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole, and partakes of the perfection of the whole.”
Ralph Waldo Emerson
“We are part of this universe; we are in this universe, but perhaps more important than both of those facts, is that the universe is in us.”
Neil deGrasse Tyson
Equally, making the most of our own wonderful potential, developing our skills and continuing to learn at every opportunity, enables us to really benefit from what we have been given.
Maybe there is less time than we think…. this is not to be pessimistic, but to urge us to seize every chance to live each day as if it were our last.
This is about truly experiencing the wonders that life has to offer, whenever and wherever possible.
- Appreciating The Ordinary.
“Living in the moment is learning how to live between the big moments. It is learning how to make the most of the in-betweens and having the audacity to make those moments just as exciting.”
Morgan Harper Nichols
Andy Warhol.Campbell_Soup-1. Screenprint.1968. Wikimedia Commons.
“You need to let the little things that would ordinarily bore you suddenly thrill you.”
Accepting the ordinary days, and the ordinariness within ourselves and our lives, will, paradoxically, free us to be extraordinary.
We may become relaxed enough to be increasingly creative and productive, reviving our sense of wonder.
“My intention is to ‘seek the sacred in the ordinary.”
Clementina van der Walt
“Plunge boldly into the thick of life, and seize it where you will, it is always interesting.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe
Morning, Looking East over the Hudson Valley from Catskill Mountains — by Frederic Edwin Church. Wikimedia Commons.
“We all have a thirst for wonder. It’s a deeply human quality. Science and religion are both bound up with it. What I’m saying is, you don’t have to make stories up, you don’t have to exaggerate. There’s wonder and awe enough in the real world. Nature’s a lot better at inventing wonders than we are.”
“Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell others.”
I shall end this post with a look at the wondrous use of language by the poet Gerard Manley Hopkins, as he cleverly and sensitively expresses the awe-inspiring flight of the windhover (falcon).
Read this poem aloud…. enjoy it…and wonder at it!
I caught this morning morning’s minion, king-
dom of daylight’s dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding
Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding
High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing
In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing,
As a skate’s heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding
Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding
Stirred for a bird,—the achieve of; the mastery of the thing!
Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here
Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion
Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier!
No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion
Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear,
Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermillion.
Gerard Manley Hopkins
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