Reverb 10 is an annual end-of-year project that helps readers reflect on the old year via a series of prompts. One of 2010’s prompts was “How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year?”
This question made me think about cultivating wonder in our lives all the time, from the old year into the new.
Wonder is a magical word, I think. And it’s a word that needs more exploration. We need to explore wonder more often, because as adults, many of us lose our sense of wonder in life. It gets buried under piles of bills, deadlines, responsibilities and housework.
Maybe you think you’re too old, too mature or too sensible to have a sense of wonder.
According to Dictionary.com, wonder means to admire, to be amazed, to be in awe, to marvel. It means something strange or surprising or a remarkable phenomenon.
How often do you marvel at your daily life?
For most of us, it’s a fleeting moment, if at all.
In the movie Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert (Julia Roberts) says “I want to go someplace where I can marvel at something,” so she sets off on a life-changing journey through Italy, India and Indonesia.
Of course, I don’t think you have to go that far to find wonder. (If I did, I’d be broke with tons of credit card debt.) In fact, your living room will do just fine.
Here are some of my ideas for cultivating wonder, whether you’re at home or away.
- Watch kids play or do anything. Kids approach life with a sense of wonder. Everything is new and bright. Everything is exciting. We can all take a lesson from observing children, from how excited they get with a new toy to how they smile at the simplest things. Apply some of that wonder to your daily life.
- Read about creativity. Lately, I’ve been immersed in the topic of creativity. When I think of being creative, I think of being lighthearted, relaxed and passionate. (Yes, passion can be intense, but to me, it’s more excitement than extreme.) I think of having fun and being free. When we’re preoccupied with the quotidian, we forget that.The creativity books currently on my shelf include Sparks of Genius: The 13 Thinking Tools of the World’s Most Creative People by Robert and Michele Root-Bernstein and Creativity Is a Verb: If You’re Alive, You’re Creative by Patti Digh. And, of course, Anne Lamott’s Bird By Bird: Instructions on Writing and Life is a classic.
But you don’t have to be a writer, a singer, a dancer, poet or a painter to be creative. As Digh writes in her book, “If you’re alive, you’re creative. If you’re alive, you’re an artist.”
- Take up photography. You don’t have to buy a fancy-pants camera. Take any camera that you have out for a spin. The quality of the photos really doesn’t matter. Focus on the beauty all around you. I believe that in order to see beauty in ourselves, we must pay attention to the beauty among us. Photographers do an incredible job of finding and capturing the beauty in the smallest of things, in the most mundane of moments, and let’s be honest, in the typically not-so-pretty places. Here are two of my favorite websites to visit for a dose of wonder: 1010 Project and 3191 Miles Apart.
- Travel to far-off places. If you can actually afford to do tons of traveling, then great! If not, go to your local library, and check out the section on travel essays. (Though if your library is anything like mine, just go to Amazon.com or your nearest bricks-and-mortar bookstore.)I’m currently reading Travels in Siberia by Ian Frazier. The book begins with these lines: “Officially, there is no such place as Siberia. No political or territorial entity has Siberia as its name…During Soviet times, revised maps erased the name entirely, in order to discourage Siberian regionalism.” Now tell me that doesn’t seem at all interesting.
OK, maybe it’s just because I’m from Russia.
- Learn something. Learning is one of the best ways you can cultivate wonder. You can either dig deeper into topics you’re already familiar with, or take on a totally strange, interesting subject. Right now, I’m also reading the book, The Poisoner’s Handbook: Murder and the Birth of Forensic Medicine in Jazz Age New York. If you’re not a big reader, watch The History Channel or visit a museum or local landmark.Ask yourself: What topics have I always wanted to learn about? What classes did I want to take in high school or college but didn’t have time to? What topics make me happy?
So how do you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life? Or how do you plan on cultivating it?
Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service – Northeast Region, available under a Creative Commons attribution license.