It seems to me that a sense of wonder is a critical faculty in humans. I suspect it's especially crucial to keep that alive as we age: wonder is connected with vitality, imagination, creativity, meaning, and I believe wellbeing, too. And, of course, youthfulness.
It's harder to keep that flame alive in an age and a society that is immersed in scientific materialism with its bias towards the reductive and analytical; not to say cynical.
As it happens, I find much scientific discovery extremely inspiring – of my imagination and of wonder both – but we live in an age where reason and analytical understanding are valued above all else, and a sense of wonder is too often trashed as naïve superstition.
For me, a sense of wonder is sufficiently important to my inner life and its outward expression (often in my writing) to carry a separate small notebook around with me for catching those 'bright moments' that inspire wonder; whether that is the exact observation of the flickering of light on water, the fledgling swallows above the valley, a phrase I hear, an unexpected smile, an artefact like the ceramic camel from the Tang dynasty (1st millenium AD) which was the object on which I had to create a workshop for my interview for the Greenway residency, or, yesterday, a day lily appearing from the mass of greenery which I thought had smothered them all.
There's much to say about this, but since I have a chapter (and more) in my book WRITING THE BRIGHT MOMENT – inspiration & guidance for writers * on this subject, I'll leave that there.
What reminded me of the importance of a sense of wonder is how many of us went out, I see from my Twitter and Facebook feeds, to watch the Perseid shower the other night (in August we pass through the Perseid belt, which means many shooting stars enter our atmosphere). New information: I'm told that the Perseid showers happen when Earth hits a belt of debris left behind by a comet, the so-called Swift-Tuttle, on its 133-year elongated orbit around the sun.
I remember a night when my dad and I walked on my child hood beach one August; we counted 21 meteors in less than an hour.
I remember another night when my daughter and I were on the Land's End peninsula, and stopped the car to get out and lie on the roof falling upwards into the vastness of sky as stars streamed towards and around us.
Magical moments, as was last Sunday evening as we, having eaten a late supper outside and caught by surprise as we'd forgotten the meteor showers, craned our heads back to watch the cosmic firework show – such vastness we're all part of.
The Lion stretches paws to the edges of the land, roars towards Orion. I so want to be drenched in starlight; imagine finding the timeless in the realm of time.
Must have been August, full moon, one night in Penwith we took the road that joins shore to moorland and drove through that downpour of falling stars – their lucence against the midnight blue a kind of covenant, a promise. Stop the car, you said, and we climbed and lay on its roof, toes towards the ocean, in a shower of light, shivered into brightness.
Those were the days before the dying started. There are benisons of pain as well as joy.
I think how easily we forget to look up, remember where we come from, where home lies.
(This poem appeared in DARK MOUNTAIN 4)