Wonder, or beyond the age of reason

We have favoured rational knowledge over intuitive wisdom, science over religion, competition over co-operation, expansion over conservation, and so on. This one-sided development is now a crisis of social, ecological, moral and spiritual dimensions.

However, the ancient Chinese said that ‘the yang, having reached its climax, retreats in favour of the yin’. The 1960s - Ecology, mysticism, feminism and holistic approaches to health - are all attempts to regain a balance between the two aspects of human nature.

Fritjof Kapra, The Tao of Physics

Reason is a great tool in the box of tricks we call our mind. What children can teach us is that wonder and creativity come before reason. Reason always comes after the fact. Wonder and awe come before it. If we consider life as a rock face, we can make certain plans before we start climbing and analyse the climb afterwards, but once on the rock face all our attention needs to be focussed on being there, to engage fully with the rock face and be in each moment. Children do this so naturally, effortlessly and intuitively.

A child at play, especially in a group, is a being in an altered state, as Stuart Brown says. A state of being or abandonment. Noisy, boisterous, moving, carefree. At whatever age we are, engaging in such joyous abandonment can do us all a power of good. 

The writer used to be a white water canoeist, regularly taking groups away on weekend river trips. Returning from one such trip his wife commented, 'I wish you'd go away every weekend because you come back shining.' 

Something wonderful occurs facing a rapid, standing on a mountain top, being absorbed by a glorious sunset, playing in snow, laughing like a drain sledging down a hill side. It is almost like touching perfection to be captivated in such a way. 

The twentieth century has been described as the age of reason, it is to be hoped, perhaps, the 21st goes beyond the age of reason into the age of wonder. We must by no means abandon reason, but rediscovering wonder might do each of us and the world a great deal of good. Children have a natural capacity for wonder and we might consider them our pioneers if we are paying attention.


© 2011 Keith Lindsay-Cameron.