On the Corner

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by Robert Docter – 

Where did wonder wander? Whatever happened to surprise? Who drowned the joy of discovery?

I bought a cell phone the other day. I guess I want to look “yuppie”–pacing around with this black object stuck in my ear. Have you noticed–people talking on these things always have their mouths attached to their legs. They can’t seem to think unless they’re moving. I never thought I’d succumb. I’ve always been able to find phone booths. Do I need it–or is it a simple matter of want? It’s given me faster access to more people, many of whom I really don’t need fast access to. What’s even worse, the opposite is the case as well–they call me.

I’m trapped in a postmodern paradox.

I am both excited by and overwhelmed by easy accessibility to too much information–too many facts about inconsequentials–too many cable channels from which to choose–too much detail, instant food, freeway speed, too few hours to run from place to place. If I sit in a restaurant, I seem to have developed what I call a McDonalds syndrome–if the food isn’t delivered in seconds after I order it, I’m impatient.

That impatience washes over into my relationships. If my internet search fails to deliver to me the exact answers to questions within a matter of seconds, I begin exploring a different search vehicle, wanting a new modem, more megahertz. Even the preacher better get to his three points fairly fast, or my mind is elsewhere–and he better do it as well as an NBC sitcom. I am both repelled by and attracted to the content of my life.

I need wonder. It didn’t leave me. I just stopped taking time to engage the process. I am now aware that I have allowed too much trivia to fill my life space, to consume my time, to sap my energy, and that in the process I lost wonder. This awareness of my own role in my own dilemma is my first step toward welcoming wonder back in my life.

Take the trip with me.

Maybe you have the same question I put to myself. Where did wonder wander? Have you spotted it recently in the bloom of a rose, in the smile locked in a child’s eyes, in the mystery of a magnificent poem, in the explosive glory of a radiant sunset, in the powerful, internal affirmation of a strong moral decision, in the depth of meaning of a particular passage of Scripture? Have you experienced wonder recently?

Don’t look for it outside yourself. You might find prettiness or excitement or activity outside yourself, but you will only find wonder within.

Wonder comes in many shades. Some are cool and calm; some vibrant and exciting; some warm and amazing; some hot and shocking. We can find it in relationships, discover it nature, or be struck by it in conclusions to our curiosity. It arrives paradoxically. The more we seek it, the less we find it. It sneaks up on us when unexpected. It leaps from the familiar and the foreign, from the understood and the undiscovered, from mystery and mistakes.

Humdrum distracts wonder. Every-thing becomes so common, and the product of that familiarity is contempt. The scorn we feel for the humdrum we have allowed to invade us spreads to the only one we can blame for its existence–ourselves.

Humdrum comes because we no longer find a sense of awe in our surroundings. We no longer work to rediscover the unique qualities that attracted us to the significant people in our lives. We accept stereotypical classifications as accurate descriptors of other living beings and fail to perceive the actual person. We allow ourselves to become conditioned to knee-jerk responses each time a specific word or event or idea is introduced. We cut people off and discount them totally because we might not agree with them on a single, particular point. We fail to find the wonder of a world filled with diversity reflected in people, cultures, ideas.

As these behaviors become more and more habitual, we like ourselves less and less. We find our lives empty and meaningless. Then, as we realize we are the creator of our own boredom and self disgust, we either resolve to rediscover wonder or become depressed.

Only humankind wonders, and then, only when a mind and heart sing the same song of open acceptance and curious willingness to examine the familiar with simplicity and perceive it anew as from the first time.

Welcome back, wonder.

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