Wonder is part of the joy of being alive. But whether on far-flung shores or closer to home, we need to nurture it
Wonder is fine dining for the soul. There is no other animal on Earth, as far as we know, that can marvel at the planet like we can; that feels awe and humility, that is moved to tears by the sheer beauty of a sunset or the magnificence of the stars at night. Wonder is what makes us who we are. It drives us to explore, question and connect. And it is that impetus, to fill the world with all the possibilities of our imagination, that has carried us so far. Wonder is the pure joy of being alive. But we must nourish it for it to thrive.
That’s not always easy: there is a wonder deficit in our modern lives. We have become disconnected from our natural sources of awe. Our ancestors spent their days immersed in the splendour of nature and their nights blanketed by the vastness of the Milky Way. What was once our birthright has become a weekend luxury. Modern life is, in many ways, a relentless drive towards success. Every second is filled with information; the stars have been replaced by TVs and the natural world is seen only through computer screens. It has both swelled our egos and diminished our world: and it is causing us problems.
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Socrates said: “Wisdom begins in wonder.” Studies have shown that awe creates empathy and altruism. It helps us connect with others and the world around us in meaningful and lasting ways.
People experiencing awe showed more awareness of the present moment, an expanded sense of time, and improved cognitive processing abilities. Wonder is not just a fleeting passion, it is a seed from which the best things in life grow. Art, science and philosophy are born from it. We learn through wonder; through the sheer joy of exploring and engaging with the world. Awe is a catalyst for growth.
Wonder transcends all boundaries, nationalities and beliefs. It is a conduit to our past, our future and to a sense of something greater than ourselves
But it may be more than that too. Contemporary psychological theories of awe suggest that what we may in fact be feeling is a momentary dissolution of the self. In the presence of great wonder – from a sunrise over the Grand Canyon to the kaleidoscopic colours of the Great Barrier Reef – our egos are literally dwarfed by the enormity of the experience. For a fleeting moment, we see the world as unaltered by trivialities. Awe is more than just an emotion. It is a snapshot of enlightenment.
That’s why we need more of it. If there is one sentiment my travel writing aspires to achieve, it is this: live life to the full and feed your spirit well. Imagine standing beneath the sweaty heat of the tallest waterfall on…
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