Shortly before his death, Abraham Joshua Heschel, the great 20th century Jewish theologian, confided to a friend that he never wanted fame or fortune. He asked for wonder. And he felt God had given him wonder.
What an extraordinary thing to wish for. A life full of wonder. Here are some random things that evoke my sense of wonder: imagining the nothingness of nothing before the big bang. Where did the matter of the universe come from? Or consider this: at any given moment, why do birds sing? Is mathematics a human invention or a discovery, or perhaps both?
Einstein believed the speed of light to be absolute. Light travels nine times around the earth each second. That’s fast. But could there be particles that only travel faster than the speed of light? And what about the surreal world of quantum mechanics? How can anything be in two different places at the same time or how does a wave become a particle, or a particle a wave, after being observed? The philosopher Frederich Nietzsche said life without music was unthinkable. But what is music exactly, and how does it travel to places words cannot reach? Arising from some internal depth, where do thoughts and feelings come from, and how do they surface in our conscious minds? And what do our nightly dreams reveal about us?
The ancient Greek philosopher Socrates used to wander through the Athenian marketplace asking: Who am I? While he did not know the answer to this fundamental and eternal question, I bet he was filled with wonder.
How does one cultivate a capacity for wonder? It is a marvelous question to wonder about. Maybe it is nothing other than simply paying attention. Being present, really present, with eyes and ears wide open, seeing and hearing what is really there. All around us. And inside us. Filling us with wonder.