So, if you’re like me, you might have woken up today feeling awfully tired from the weekend’s festivities… not the usual physical tiredness from an active weekend and not the intellectual weariness from conversations sparked purely by curious ideas. No, this is the tiredness of empathy and wonder.
Having moved to Philadelphia without a single connection and into a career choice that will last a long time, it personally has been tough forming personal connections with others, so when my friend from Wash. U. married his love and on the guest list were my longtime college buddies I had not seen in ages, I am now utterly exhausted from empathy, from love, but mostly from wonder. I am exhausted by the engagement of being vulnerable with another, of catching up or leading the way with friends who, more easily than I, carry a conversation effortlessly like a weeping willow in the wind. I was envious of their words and of their ability to carry on and I wondered how they did it. Some of them spoke of not having a television. I wondered how they were carrying on and how they were going about their daily lives, in and out of circles, enlarging and diminishing everyday. I wondered about their jobs and their dispositions and their relationships. I wondered about the demeanor they felt they needed to exhibit in their new lives and if it was a hassle to live up to other people’s view of them. I wondered about their wonderment and if they wondered at all. I wondered in amazement at their being… in the present moment.
Some of them have children now. I wondered about their choices in their new adulthood. I wondered about their significant others and what kinds of conversations they had when they each came home from a long day at work. I wondered if they wondered at all about this.
I wondered what books they were reading and what kinds of new exercise fads or foods they now enjoyed. I wondered what they were learning in their new environment. All this wonderment was making me exhausted, but I could not help but continue to wonder.
My wonderment sets me apart. Indeed, it takes me out of the present and puts me somewhere just to the side, seen and sometimes heard. I remember I wrote my college entrance essay about wondering what it would be like to walk a mile in my brother’s shoes. My brother is manic and he is depressed. I wonder at his forays between these two extremes and if these two extremes are even polar opposites to him. I’ve seen the ease with which he makes things. He used to be a painter, but when I ask him if he makes art nowadays, he’ll grow peevish and annoyed and want to immediately change the subject. If he’s not making, he’s not living, and having to talk about his art is one step closer to his demise. His art is an infinitive, but I still wonder about this.
I wonder about things because the wondering allows me to attach myself to a multitude of ideas. I enjoy the aimlessness of wonderment and its branching like the roots of an Oak. I love to wonder. It puts me at the fork and doesn’t make me choose. Some will say wonderment is the opposite of indecisiveness, but I made the choice to wonder.
So, moving forward, I wonder where to go from where. I wonder about the landscape of education. I wonder how we will teach our children to wonder, not to wonder hopelessly but to wonder audaciously. I wonder how we will teach our children to use their wonderment to teach themselves, and I wonder what kinds of permission we will grant our youth to wonder in order to explore the act of wondering in all its complexities. Wonderment is not tentative. It is sharp.