It’s something that we are born with. But over time, as we begin to judge, accumulate experiences, and become distracted…it often fades. Fortunately, slowing down (from the pandemic and retirement), communing with nature, being with children, and seeing the world through someone else’s perspective can bring it back.
It is the simple and powerful question, “I wonder…?”
No inventions or scientific breakthroughs would have happened without that question.
Business leaders, such as Jeff Bezos attribute their success to it.
I wonder allows us to practice empathy. “I wonder how it would feel to be a different race or gender?”
I wonder…keeps our brains active.
I wonder…makes us life-long learners.
I wonder…inspires hobbies and collectors.
Psychologists believe that people who wonder are better problem solvers, have less stress, and a more positive outlook on life.
And, on a personal note, I would not be able to write a weekly column without this little verb. My creative processes typically involves wondering about life from a different perspective, or how something works, or why it works, or if it works.
My inspirations are nature, animals, history, and people. For example, after a relaxing walk in a pine forest I wondered if there was something about pine scent that impacted mood. (In fact, Japanese scientists have proven that pine trees produce phytoncides, which reduce stress, improve sleep, and have anti-inflammatory benefits. They call it forest bathing.)
I am very curious about animals. What senses do they have that we lack? How do they view us and each other? How do they connect with nature? Jim Hutto, a naturalist, spent a year being a “mother” to wild turkeys and discovered that when we was guiding his flock, a different world opened up to him. He saw animals, such as snakes, that he didn’t see when he was alone. He learned that turkeys experience joy; and have a unique language and community.
A sense of wonder keeps us young, too. There are many sources for wonder.
- The arts: paintings, installation art, performance art, sculptures, writing, music, and theater.
- Creating and building things.
- Interacting with different people.
- Chesapeake Forum, which offers courses from local experts https://chesapeakeforum.org/.
- Public television (PBS), non-fiction channels, documentaries, and radio (NPR).
- Museums, books, magazines, interest groups, book clubs.
So, how much more can this little verb do?
Angela Rieck, a Caroline County native, received her PhD in Mathematical Psychology from the University of Maryland and worked as a scientist at Bell Labs, and other high-tech companies in New Jersey before retiring as a corporate executive. Angela and her dogs divide their time between St Michaels and Key West Florida. Her daughter lives and works in New York City.