“It is owing to their wonder that men both now begin and at first began to philosophize.”
Aristotle himself does not explicitly offer a definition of wonder. It is clear, however, that wonder has two essential elements: a seeing, and a feeling.
To wonder one must first of all see something. Something wonderful. There is no shortage of wonderful realities, but often we do not see them as they are. One need not fully comprehend the reality. Rather, wonder requires that we have insight into something great, and thus we realize how far beyond our comprehension that great thing is.
But even such insight is not yet wonder. To wonder is also an affair of the heart. We are moved by wonder. There is a combination of desire and fear: the kind of fear that is appropriate when we desire something seemingly far away. How can we reach this, how can we find the truth, and be true to it? We shudder, in wonder.
Where has all the wonder gone? Perhaps wherever the childlike-ness of children, and of adults, has gone.
This is an age of ‘adult’ stores and entertainment, which are ‘adult’ only in the sense that they mar that childish innocence that should always be protected, in both young and old. It is an age in which the frenetic activity of adults narrows not only their own vision, but pushes children in front of wonder-crushing screens and devices. It is an age in which the education of children corrals them into narrow passages fitting them to be numb partakers of an increasingly consumerist society.
For wonder to be re-discovered, it must be cultivated. Like a flower. In the soil of silence, the water of exposure to the natural world, the manure of self-restraint, the fresh air of handed-down insights, and the sunshine of quality time with loved ones.
We can all learn again to wonder.
Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), student of Plato, tutor of Alexander the Great, has been considered by many to be the greatest ancient philosopher.
Image: a young lady, a few years ago, who still loves flowers.