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Tuesday, July 31, 2007

The Sense of Wonder

Albert Einstein used to say that one who has lost the sense of wonder has lost everything. All science was born out of wonder, and so was all great art. The great pioneering environmental crusader Rachel Carson wrote a lovely little book called 'The Sense of Wonder', wherein she asserted that a parent's/teacher's most important task was to strengthen, cultivate and satisfy a child's innate sense of wonder. It was in that same vein that Tagore sang 'akaashbhora surjo tara, bishwobhora praan/tahaari majhkhane aami peyechhi more sthan/ bishmoye tai jaage amaar gaan...'. I am infinitely grateful that unlike most 'grown-ups' my age and more, I can still feel that childlike wonder at many, many things. Very little things, too, like rain pattering on leaves, and my daughter smiling in her dreams, and that every year, while dealing with an endless stream of lazy moronic pupils, a little gem turns up who makes all my efforts worthwhile. I could name a hundred other things, but it's quite unnecessary.
If only more of us could preserve that sense of wonder, far fewer people would burn with boredom, frustration and envy of those who appear to be successful and happy beyond their reach, and therefore cannot think of any better way of entertaining themselves than vilifying such others, never once pausing to reflect that they are only spitting in the air with their heads turned upwards!


Sudipto pondering said...

This indeed makes me wonder why so many of us have lost the single thing that made my childhood a happy and memorable time: the ability to imagine and get wonderstruck. Why is it so that so few of us are enchanted by something as beautiful as birds chirping in the early hours of the morning, or the whoosh of the blowing gale? And believe me, feeling wonder doesn't even need a degree or a whole lot of techinical knowledge. It's so easy: all you need to have is a heart to soak up natural beauty. Is that too much for us (including most my contemporaries, who have just left their childhood days behind) to do?

Shilpi said...

Hullo there...I think you're absolutely right. It's the loss of this sense - the sense of wonder (which is a wonderous sense) that makes one bored, frustrated, fratchy, and jaded...and this is partly related to something else that you and another friend once said...it's related to the mind chattering like a hundred apes all the time. The falling rain, the dance of the sun, a prancing deer, which stops and stares at you in the middle of a trail (of course it's difficult to imagine that anybody could be indifferent to such a sight), the first star in the sky, the rustle of trees, a much-loved dog smelling flowers with a grin on its face, hearing a favourite song with lovely buoyant lyrics on the radio just when we you needed to hear it....I read apoem recently called 'Starfish' - and it sang similar words...I wonder why we lose it - that sense of wonder....at least those of us who do....I think losing it leads one to becoming embittered....and then of course, we stop noticing the everyday miracles, waiting for a 'Grand' one to crash on our heads from heaven - and then when God says 'Okay, here it goes' and sends us the 'Grandie' - by then we've completely lost our ability to experience wonder...

Abhirup said...

I can remember Bibhutibhushan Banerjee writing in 'Aparajito', "The sense of wonder is the highest of all sensibilities", and he made it very clear through his protagonist Apu. Let me also quote from an excellent article written in the 'TIME' magazine by the noted American film critic Roger Ebert on the legendary Steven Spielberg:

"One day we sat and talked about his [Spielberg] childhood, and he told me of a formative experience. 'My dad took me out to see a meteor shower when I was a little kid,' he said, 'and it was scary for me because he woke me up in the middle of the night. My heart was beating; I didn't know what he wanted to do. He wouldn't tell me, and he put me in the car and we went off, and I saw all these people lying on blankets, looking up at the sky. And my dad spread out a blanket. We lay down and looked at the sky, and I saw for the first time all these meteors. What scared me was being awakened in the middle of the night and taken somewhere without being told where. But what didn't scare me, but was very soothing, was watching this cosmic meteor shower. And I think from that moment on, I never looked at the sky and thought it was a bad place.'
There are two important elements there: the sense of wonder and hope, and the identification with a child's point of view."

Both Bibhutishan's novel and Spielberg's life illustrate the same truth: it is the sense of wonder from which every great work of art and invention spring.

SoumyaPlus said...

Very true and makes an excellent read. I can say from my personal experience that my sense of wonder was the key driving factor behind what I did and what I do...which probably explains why I have seen myself so diligent and hardworking in certain pursuits of life while coming out complete lazy in certain others. No wonder, it is the sense of wonder, indeed !!

Anshu Singh said...

I would like to share some of my own experiences on this.
In the past two months, I have been giving presentations, teaching students (of engineering background) and training teachers.
There is certain constancy in all of them. All of them have lost the capability of wondering and thinking small.
During one of those training sessions, I "overheard" one teacher trying to "impress" the Principal by saying that it's strange that the students as they grow lose their sense and ability of questioning and extending the academics to their everyday life. I do not know what happened then, I could resist myself. I just asked him "Why don't you have a look at yourself, you will get the answer"? To which he had nothing to say.
Then there are students who are just interested in being spoon-fed. They just want a synopsis of everything so that they can clear examinations. It is as if they think that all their problems will be over by clearing an examination and then the world will be a much better world to live in.
And whenever I digressed from this way of teaching, I always found only 4 to 5 students interested in the class and the rest 35 found themselves out of place. No matter how much i tried to include them in the discussions, they refused to budge.
What a great "inertial force" we are living under.
And all this is because we have stopped dreaming and taking life as drudgery. Life has to be taken as an Aphrodisiac in itself remembering that paradise is here itself rather than somewhere else.

I had heard someone say that "everything is a miracle in itself".
Do we really know what a miracle really is? Can we get above the "miracles" performed by the modern day saints and can more life be injected in us simply by seeing the raindrops, the mountains, the desert, the plains, the sun, the moon and GOD.
I propose this can be done only via education

Sayan Sarkar said...

A mind which does not question,is as useless as blunt knife. Among other things that I have learnt from four years of undergraduate education and five weeks of professional experience, is the fact the medicore individuals never question, and probably do not reason that often. But concurrently, most of the succesful individuals that I have come across questions every moment, and also encourages them from others. I guess one never becomes succesful if one is not ready to face uncertainties, and walk that extra mile.
Though I am not the brightest of individuals, I still do regard every new day as the first kindergarten class and try to find answers, instead of poring over the problems.

christoph said...

" every year, while dealing with an endless stream of lazy moronic pupils, a little gem turns up who makes all my efforts worthwhile. "

aimless websurfing does have its rewards: i stumbled upon your blog. very well written. i liked the line quoted above the most. i am also a teacher by profession, cannot agree more with the sense of optimism evident in this line.

Suvro Chatterjee said...

To Christoph:
Most grateful for that little comment; many thanks. Few people in my profession around me have nice things to say! It would be great if I could write to you directly: may I have your email i.d., please? Mine is suvro.chatterjee@gmail.com

Sayan said...

Some people argue that "we are so much pre-occupied with our jobs that we have neither the mood nor the scope to enjoy!"They have the idea permanently ingrained in their minds that only the rich fellows with plush workplaces have the scope of appreciating the dewdrops on the petal of a flower.I fear those who,clasping their bank accounts,think the steady increment of them,as their common sense of wonder.We do not have to have well-defined,segmented professions to glimpse outside the AC-glass windows of our offices to the simple phenomena of nature or even the passing of a merry child on his mother's lap on the road below.I sometimes refer to the writings of Buddhadeb Guha,a chartered accountant by profession.We can thorougly feel by reading his stories how he has preserved the facet of his character which still has the sense of wonder and a sense of humour,though he had a professionally dry job of debit-credit balancing.
Well-known mind-body medicine doctor Deepak Chopra has stressed on the vitality of those ever-youth people who perceive each day with a renewed sense of vigour,who can smile enthusiastically when their grandsons are cheered by learning their first bicyle-rides.They live longer than others,their minds do not become perpetual hard-disks feeding on petty family issues.It is a matter of serious concern that today even children of school-going age are being clipped off their wings of wonders,they are slowly turning into machines,leave alone the adults!

Vaishnavi said...

Dear Sir,

I think this post ties up rather nicely with the juxtaposition of views between the little girl and the old man in the video linked to your latest blogpost. Sense of wonder indeed; I once read in an Enid Blyton book (I forget which) that the world, just after rain, looks as if it has been freshly laundered. What a delightful thought, to this day I cannot help recalling that line and looking agog at that very greeny green that leaves exhibit after rain.