Wonder is good for us.
Here’s a cheer for cultivating the discipline of wonder.
Thanks to Philip Ball for the inspiration (“Why science needs wonder”). He explains that wonder is at the heart of knowing, which is, of course, the burden of science.
But people from other disciplines rely on wonder as well: theologians, artists, inventors, and more. Wonder begins in observation and questioning, when we become curious about some aspect of what we’re observing or experiencing. The more we ponder what we don’t know, the more questions arise. As we chase down answers, or at least, insights, wonder leads to discovery, and discovery can lead to knowing.
The world around us is so vast and varied, so filled with things to make us wonder. Why are the goldfinches so continuously wary at the feeders, while the cardinals are just all about business? Why didn’t my dogwoods bloom again this year? Why does Boudreaux find it necessary to break out in a barking fit every time the school bus comes down the road? Why is it so easy to procrastinate and so hard to create?
Wonder is good for us. But who ever teaches us the discipline of wonder? We learn how to pray and read our Bibles. We’re taught reading, writing, and arithmetic. But shouldn’t we also be instructed in the ways of wonder as a foundational discipline for all of life?
The ancients wondered at the night sky and made up stories to explain what they saw. We don’t believe the stories any more, but we still use them to find our way around the heavenly bodies.
Inventors are constantly wondering about what might happen if…
Artists gaze at their canvas and wonder how to capture the vision in their brain and the affections stirring in their souls.
Scientists wonder in the language of mathematics; philosophers in the language of logic; and theologians in the language of Scripture and the Christian tradition.
It seems to me that wonder – observing, conversing, asking questions, playing with solutions, listening and encouraging, sketching and doodling – might be an appropriate context for pursuing dialog between parties in a disagreement.
For example, the disagreement that continues to divide Christians working in the sciences into competing – and criticizing – parties over the question of the origins of the cosmos and life.
Instead of continuing to hammer away at one another, might we not benefit from gathering to wonder aloud about the larger questions of life in the cosmos, about the intersections of faith, science, and everyday life? Might we not be able to discover some creative and compelling ways of establishing a firmer Christian presence in the sciences if we could set aside our criticisms and join our heads and hearts in wonder from time to time?