While reading this article, try listening to the song “Cornfield Chase” by Hans Zimmer, and then “An Old Peasant Like Me” by Explosions in the Sky.
While walking the streets of Wicker Park in Chicago, a friend asked, “Who the heck discovered how to make and a tune a guitar? And who thought that tomatoes would be great as ketchup and delicious on meat and fries? Amazing.” We had just passed a myriad of restaurants and had heard all sorts of music blasting from store shops. For a time I thought that those were funny and “off-topic” questions but after remembering these “funny” questions a few days later, I realized that they were far from funny and actually reminded me to have a deeper sense of awareness to the visuals and sounds around me, and essentially to have more wonder in my life. Google and Wikipedia may be our go to for looking up facts and quick answers to questions, but sometimes even they cannot answer everything or really be a channel to experience “wonder.”
As I was thinking more about my friend’s comments, I couldn’t help but wish my mind were more oriented like theirs. I began to think of my day-to-day work life and how much I liked it despite it being a radical change from my life just a few months prior. I began to think more about the people I see everyday, my friends, my daily commute to and from work, the same restaurants I pass everyday, and all the little parts of my life that are exactly the same in ways: the way I brush my teeth, the alarm I set, the people I text, etc. When contemplating the purpose of these routines I realized that I too could find a sense of awe in each of them. I found myself asking questions like “who decided to make the highway signs green? Or, why is the Record button on a camera red instead of purple? Who chose which Emojis would be available on our iPhones and why?”
When I began to adopt my friend’s way of passing through life, I felt the mundane turn into something worth wondering about and worth having more fun with.
According to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, wonder is “rapt attention or astonishment at something awesomely mysterious or new to one’s experience or a cause of astonishment or admiration.” When many of us were little we wondered a lot more about things because naturally, we knew less. Things and events were more astonishing the first time we experienced them because they were new. Imagine if we could remember what we thought the first time we ever ate ice cream. We must have been in such awe. As we grow up our sense of wonder can be lost, forgotten, and even thought of as foolish. Generally speaking, people do not often like to ask things because it makes them seem inadequate, uneducated, or even lame. What if every time we ate ice cream we noticed something different in it or decided to pay more attention to how we reacted to its deliciousness? Perhaps wonder is the cure to our easy to acquire complacency in life or seemingly banal activities we perform day in and day out. Being in a state of awe or wonder, can make us feel smaller, less self-important, and reminded of the literal awesomeness we live in and are an active part of. I believe that this sense of wonder can even make one kinder, wiser, more fun, youthful and happier.
I often equate a feeling of awe with the feeling I had when I first saw the Eiffel Tower or when I met one of my favorite bands after their concert. These were extraordinary moments for me, but moments like these are not part of my ordinary life. When thinking about my life with a greater sense of wonder, I find a greater sense of wonder in it. It has been an active decision for me with so many moments that eventually it has become more natural in its occurrence, not diminishing my wonder but rather amplifying it. Like when I am editing a video and, somehow, a small vision of mine comes to life with many clicks of a mouse and a computer program. Or when my little sister writes a new song on the piano and I just wonder, “How did she know those chords would be so good together?” And even, “why is the “F” key next to the “G” on a computer keyboard?”
I don’t think my friend realized how their natural sense of humble innocent wonder in life would greatly impact my own. I no longer associate “wonder” with the popular hashtag “wanderlust” people post on their Instagrams to indicate that wonder is found only in travelling the world, but rather I associate it with the little things I see in nature, religion, and work–mostly through people. I asked this friend why they have keenly kept wonder an active player in their life and the answer was simple, “Maintaining a sense of curiosity in life helps me to keep even the most meaningless mundane tasks full of wonder, making my life more fun and interesting”
Wonder why I asked you to listen to those two songs? I wrote this article listening to them and thought they matched the flow of the piece.
Crystal Avila graduated May 2017 and was the Culture and Thought Editor for two years. She now works as a film producer and editor in Chicago. If you want to know which films and songs keep her in a state of wonder, email her at email@example.com.