What is That Thing Anyway?
December 4 Wonder.
How did you cultivate a sense of wonder in your life this year? (Prompt author: Jeffrey Davis)
Long ago, in a high school classroom, I learned a lesson about cultivating wonder. Mr. Hughes, an English teacher with a knack for prodding creativity, presented a strange object to the class. He asked us to guess what this flat block of green-painted wood with two metal scrolls coming out of it could be. To be honest, I don’t even remember what it was, or what I guessed for that matter, and simple identification wasn’t the real point of the exercise anyway.
Several students took turns, each with his or her own idea of uses for it. Mr. Hughes would hold the object in front of them while they guessed. When my turn came I took the object from his hands so I could move it around, examine it from different angles. I pulled the metal scrolls apart, and upon letting them go they made a clanging sound.
“Exactly!” he said. He didn’t just want us to look at the object. He wanted us to explore it by engaging all of our senses. It took more time and effort to investigate further and taking it from his hands hadn’t been part of the instructions. But new possibilities were suddenly unlocked. Movement and sound weren’t part of the equation when merely looking at the object. I’m sure he had no idea how much this small moment shaped my thinking.
The brain is wired to make quick observations. Rely on only one sense, and you’ll likely follow the fast and easy path your mind creates for you. Consider the McGurk effect, when what you see can override what you hear. How easy is it to accept what we see and move on, when our own brain will play tricks on us to keep the world orderly?
Openness and patience to wonder and discovery. That’s the key to my world view. This way of operating can be quite infuriating to type A personalities. I might seem pokey or scattered to someone more interested in the direct path. There’s method in this madness, though. And a whole world out there to mull over.
This post is a part of #reverb10 by Gwen Bell. Gwen and her team enlisted a group of authors to write prompts for each day in December. Participants can blog, tweet or post photos in reaction to the prompts to reflect on the past year.
Posted on: 12.04.2010