Why We Need to Rediscover Wonder

What do we do with wonder? Do we bottle it up and try to hold on to it? Do we pull out our iPhones and try to share it with the world? Or do we merely bask in its glow?

Aurora Borealis Photo
Photo credit: Omar Smith (Creative Commons)

Recently, I was reading a new book, which addresses this:

One evening I noticed a brushstroke of lime green in the sky growing brighter with each passing moment. I rubbed my eyes as if I’d seen a mirage then looked again. The color appeared to flap in the wind like a loose sail.

“That’s the northern lights,” Leif assured me.

The beauty of the aurora borealis enchanted me. Since that evening, I had spent countless hours peering through the window of our home and returning to the desolate place where the road ends to catch one more glimpse of the beauty that quickened my soul.

Even on the most extravagant evenings, the northern lights had lasted only an hour or two then faded, but on this evening the curtain to the performance never closed. The sky exhaled more hues than I imagined possible, and I found myself caught up in the wonder.

…Even though I lived in Alaska for five years and witnessed the northern lights more than a hundred times, none compared to that night. I still savor the encounter and live in hopeful anticipation of another.

Though we now live at a lower latitude on the outskirts of a major city notorious for its light pollution, on many nights, you’ll still find me scouting the sky in hope of catching another glimpse of the wonder. 

When it comes to wonder, we have a few choices:

We can try to capture it

We can try to hold onto the beauty and the splendor, catching a piece of it with our gadgets and gizmos, even our memories and journals.

But in doing so, we cheapen the thing itself and distract ourselves from being present to the moment.

We can try to reproduce it

Don’t kid yourself: All your tweeting and Instagramming is not the same as watching a sunset. When we catalogue every single memory in photo albums, we’re missing out. We’re not remembering; we’re creating cheap facsimiles of true beauty.

Certainly, these things have their place, but we can’t deceive ourselves into thinking a Polaroid is nearly as good as the original. Can we?

We can enjoy it

Of course, it’s impossible to actually capture or reproduce wonder. The best way to appreciate beauty, I’ve found, is to simply say, “Thank you.” To God or nature or your next-door neighbor. To be grateful for this moment, even if it may be fleeting (sometimes, because of the fact).

As in the excerpt above, there is no guarantee that the mystery of this moment will ever encounter you again. Which is what makes it so special. So relish it.

The next time you’re having a moment — maybe seeing the world through a child’s eyes or smiling at the sight of your town covered in snow — I hope you resist the urge, at least for a moment, to try to capture and reproduce it for the world to see and instead simply enjoy the wonder.

Get the book

The book I quoted above is Wonderstruck by Margaret Feinberg. It’s a great call to live a life full of faith, awe, and wonder, and it’s on sale this week. Check it out on Amazon by clicking here (affiliate link).

What’s one moment of wonder you’ve recently witnessed? Were you present to it? Share in the comments.