Do people experience wonder anymore?

posted by Jeff | Saturday, August 24, 2019, 10:00 PM | comments: 0

I had a lap around Kennedy Space Center today, and I'm still in awe of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. Sure, it ended up being an over-engineered and suboptimal vehicle (the cost and turnaround time for reuse was pretty terrible, despite that being the stated goal), but it was still an extraordinary achievement to be able to fly that thing, people and countless cargo pieces into space. We, mankind, achieved something.

But I couldn't help but notice people bowing to their phones, seemingly bored minutes after seeing it for the first time. I'm not being judgmental about kids here either, it was people of all ages. I appreciate that the Shuttle program was more special for a kid who grew up with it, witnessed the horror of the Challenger explosion (and disbelief of Columbia's demise 17 years later), but space flight is an extraordinary thing, and this big thing went there 33 times.

This admittedly is a cynical view, but does anyone experience wonder about anything anymore? Our culture is completely preoccupied with narcissism and tribalism, colored with a side of entitlement. No one seems to believe that anything is amazing. That makes me sad.

Sometimes I find wonder in things we otherwise take for granted. Sometimes I look at my phone, and I realize that I have a tiny supercomputer in my hand that's connected to nearly all of the world's information. That's extraordinary, and the power that comes from that is part of the reason that I've been able to craft a successful career, and maybe make the world a little better than it was when I came into it, however small that impact might be. Sure, it's easy to find wonder in my phone, when growing up telephones were things wired to walls with dials on them, and the closest I could get to a computer was a desktop calculator.

I'm suggesting it doesn't even have to be something about technological advancement. Whether it's the mountains of Alaska, the pounding surf of the Atlantic Ocean, or the awesome force of a hurricane, it strikes me as impossible not to feel overwhelmed. Heck, I've lived in Florida for six years, and geckos, those tiny dinosaurs, inspire wonder and joy every time I see them (and I giggle when I catch them procreating). 

Or how's this for wonder: I met another person who wants to be my partner for the rest of our brief time in the world, and together we made this little human that keeps getting larger, has opinions, and expresses love toward us. That should inspire wonder.

It's so easy to get lost in all of the bullshit. In the cosmic sense of things, we're meaningless and absurdly temporary. It's all bigger than us, and to me that's a reason of wonder. Exploring all that inspires wonder is the point, it is our reason for being.


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