16 October 2011

sense of wonder

These thoughts were sparked by a post from here. The topic of surprise quickly leads me to thinking about wonder.

What do we mean when we say that something is "wonderful"? Take the word apart, and you get the idea that we're saying it's "full of wonder." But do we really intend to convey that? What is this thing called "wonder," anyway?

I know what it is to wonder about something. I'm thinking about it, and the sense that I get sometimes is that it's maybe more casual than pondering (possibly not, but work with me here). I'm thinking about an idea, or a topic, and that object of my wondering is something I don't understand. I don't know it. Je le connais pas. This is an unknown that I might not even be able to understand soon.

And in that sense, it is possible that wondering is far more serious than pondering. It's forming ideas. New ideas, about things I don't understand, in an attempt to reach understanding. In the Peircean sense (I've been reading a lot of him lately), it's part of the process of abduction (as compared to deduction or induction; I'm not talking about kidnapping here).

Of course, wondering may not lead me swiftly to understanding. What it will ultimately lead me to, if I allow the process to draw me down its natural path, is a growing sense of mystery. Of awe in that mystery. A respect for the workings of this universe. A desire to learn more. That deep feeling of serenity which tells me of the peace I can't possibly comprehend.

A sense of wonder.

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