There was a post yesterday (10/31/14) on the Facebook Page “Humans of New York” where a gentleman was describing the loss of childhood wonder he said, “My happiest moments were way back in childhood. Everything was magical back then. All children are in a constant state of awe and everything is fantastic to them, but then the magical feeling dissipates and reality creeps in.” the interviewer asked “When was the last time you felt that magical feeling?”
“Ha! Not since I’ve been an adult, that’s for sure.”
What happens to all that wonder and to the thrill of discovery?
First, I would like to mention that not everyone had a happy, wonder-filled childhood. Those of us who were fortunate enough to experience it, have wonderful memories of those times.
Whether or not you had a happy childhood the everyday stresses of living, paying the bills, going to work, and having little time for oneself can all add up to exhaustion and disillusionment. I think there are three prime drivers of misery in our culture— competition, acquisition and consumption.
As a society we are told that we need more, better, faster, shinier, newer, and better everything. What we have–should never, ever—be enough. We have to buy the newest model and if we don’t have the cash we should buy it on credit. Now.
We want everything immediately, and if we have to wait for it, or put some effort into getting it, it’s not worth it. We spend much of our time on devices, plugged in to the internet, computer, phone, I pad, gaming systems, televisions, entertainment on demand, Net Flicks, and on and on. Even blogging…..like now.
Don’t get me wrong, I use technology every day and I am grateful for the opportunities it provides me to learn, grow and connect with the world. However, like too much of any good thing, it can sap the life out of you. For those of us 50 or over, we did not grow up with the internet, cell phones, cable TV, gaming systems or personal computers.
What was it about childhood that was so wondrous? It was EXPERIENCES, NOT THINGS.
I would like to offer three concepts for reactivation of experiences of joy and wonder for your consideration.
Imagination, Communication and the Natural World. Have you seen the FB/ You Tube video of the little girl running in her first rain? If you haven’t take a look http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxmmvHsDeuI
This is the wonder of childhood. Maybe we think we are too old for nature firsts, but give it a try. You’ve already seen rain, but when was the last time you purposefully took a walk in the rain, with out an umbrella…..? Go to a park and lie under a tree and took at the canopy and the sky, listen to your favorite music-or just listen to the wind and the sounds around you. Breathe in the scents of fresh cut grass, or central park after a rain, or piney woods, the beach, or a rose. Leave your phone at home, or turn it off if you must bring it!
Go for a hike, sit on the top of a hill and just be there. We have to stop rushing around and take time to look at the sunset, the stars. Make a plan, go somewhere you can be away from city lights and spend a night star gazing. There are more stars in the universe than there are grains of sand on all the beaches on planet Earth!!!! Look up from your daily grind and contemplate that one for a while! How it all came to be and the enormity of the expanse of the universe should give you at least a twinkle of the wonder of the unknown and the unanswerable questions about life and our place in it. It is an adult equivalent to ” Daddy where is up? Why is the sky blue? Where do we go when we die?”
You see, a sense of wonder is, I think, one of scale and experience. When you were a child, everything was new. But each day as you grew, each experience you had the day before was no longer new, but known. The opportunity to have new experiences did not go away…. we just got distracted by daily life. School and formal learning became the path to new discoveries, while most often, imagination was relegated to a lesser function. Re-activate your imagination. Do it by yourself, with your kids, with your grandkids. Do something creative. It doesn’t matter what. The arts, music, writing, pretend, dress-up, and so on….choose one.
There are new experiences of the psyche, the soul, the cosmos, that we have no definitive answers for. Pondering the meaning of the entire world in a flower, as the Buddah did, or all life in a mustard seed as Jesus did…will stretch your wonder capacity.
We are enslaved to the maintenance of the physical body, our homes, our bills, or food, our transportation, health care and on and on. Even Plato long ago said,
“Wars and revolutions and battles are due simply and solely to the body and desires. All wars are undertaken for the acquisition of wealth, and the reason why we have to acquire wealth is the body, because we are slaves in it’s service.”
Whether you agree with Plato or not, if we didn’t feel the need to compete with our neighbors and co workers, for a better house or car, or salary…if we didn’t need to always acquire the newest gadget, if we didn’t participate in a overly consumptive, disposable society, maybe we would have a little more time to cultivate our unexplored human potential. If we can say what we have materially, is enough…maybe we would have more time and mental energy to contemplate the beauty of natural world and life itself. A marine biologist in Maui, Hawaii told me, that humpback whales from around the globe begin the year with different song, and by the end of the migration, all the whales sing the same song, even if the pods have never met. That sparks wonder in me.
If it was our parents and families that gave us the safe loving environment to have the wonder filled experiences of our childhoods, who will do that for us now? We must hold that space for each other, person to person. Connect with people, face to face, get off your devices and truly communicate. Spend time together, conversations will take you places you never expected. You will help yourself and others along the way. Listen. Be present.
Here’s to you finding Wonder and Joyful moments in your adult lives!