Albert Einstein said that wonder is the source of all true art and all science. “He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.”
During our recent visit to Peru, we were amazed at the magnificent Incan architecture. Their precise stonework has withstood the centuries, though earthquakes have toppled other buildings all around. We were enthralled by the terraces the Incan people built on the sides of Andean mountains to grow crops. They created perhaps the finest irrigation system the world had known at the time.
At Nazca we looked in wonder at the so-called “Nazca Lines” — a series of lines and pictures the ancient Nazca people drew in the desert sand many hundreds of years ago. Archaeologists are still bewildered by the significance of these lines, yet we were thrilled to gaze in awe at this unusual relic of antiquity. To us, everything was new. Every moment an adventure.
I’m reminded of the little girl who rode a train with her mother. Looking out the window, she exclaimed, “Look! A horse!” And a moment later, “Look! Houses!”
She gave every indication of keeping this up, so her embarrassed mother apologized to the man next to her. “I’m sorry my daughter is going on like this,” she said. “She still thinks everything is wonderful.”
When do we stop thinking everything is wonderful? When we grow up? Does growing older also mean growing jaded?
And must we travel to faraway places to marvel once again? Can’t we experience wonder and awe today — this moment?
A fresh orange or buttered toast is no less marvelous today than when you first tasted it. The building you work in may be an architectural miracle the ancients never fathomed. The smell of your summer garden or the sight of this evening’s sunset can be no less glorious today than it ever was. Few things are commonplace in themselves — it’s our reaction to them that grows dull over the years.
As Einstein observed, those who will pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe will truly live. They will see what others miss. They will feel what others cannot. Life will be for them both exquisite and mysterious when they learn to say, “Awe.”