The art of wonder #christmas

by Kazeem Olalekan

“The possession of knowledge does not kill the sense of wonder and mystery. There is always more mystery.”

― Anaïs Nin

At a time when Richard Dawkins is developing an appetite for wonder, I thought I might address the art of wonder in this post. I posted a riposte to Richard Dawkin’s Channel 4 documentary on God Delusion elsewhere, a few years back. We clearly approach the issue of God from different perspectives. In any case, we are both believers: I believe in God and he doesn’t. Whatever the perspective however, I think there is always room for wonder. This is a Richard Dawkins books, I will be investing in (along with Stephen Hawkings: ‘My brief history’). As you might know: ‘I play the man and the ball. I always keep my eye on the ball’.

What does it mean to wonder?

Wonder has been defined as: “The emotion aroused by something awe-inspiring, astounding, or marvellous”. The discussion here is about how you feel, how you are aroused; not about what informs it. The feeling itself is astounding, awe-inspiring and positively marvellous. To wonder, confers meaning on what might otherwise feel mundane. Steve Jobs described, in his Stanford speech, how his curiosity and intuition led him to take a calligraphy class at Reeds College. What was a case of going through the motion for a college ‘drop-out’ turned out to be really important indeed in his subsequent work at Apple. He captured this well as follows:

You can’t connect the dot looking forward, you can only connect them looking backward, you have to trust that the dots will connect in your future, you have to trust in something: gut, destiny, life, Karma whatever because believing that the dots will connect down the road will give you confidence to follow your heart even when it lead to a well worn path and that will make all the difference

– Steve Jobs

The fact that I am writing this at all is wonderful in itself….to me at least! The act of wonder is not an end in itself. It’s role is to drive you forward. If you spend too much time wondering and too little time looking forward, then you could miss the wood for the tree. For what it’s worth, take it from me: the dots will connect down the road. To wonder is an art which everyone will have to learn in their own ways. I say you wonder everyday in quick short burst on the basis of positive and negative experiences – it is a reflective process. For each experience, just contemplate for a few quiet seconds with: ‘I wonder what this means?’, then move on.

Now let me do my own wondering

In the ‘Doctrine of Universal Truths’, I described a series of events and I posted the timeline here. In my first stint at the University Hospitals Southampton Foundation Trust, I was a pre-registration pharmacist in 1999. I made a regional presentation of my pre-registration project to two judges. Guess who they were? Dr Martin Stephen and Dr Brian Curwain. I didn’t get the top prize, but I came second.  I was very proud and wanted to publish my pre-registration work but events superseded that and had to leave.  In 2008, after my seminal moment, it was the presentation by Dr Brian Curwain and the response of Dr Martin Stephen to a question (read the book) that provided the basis for my action plan! As if that was not enough, the eventual completion of my action plan is in effect the squaring of my uncompleted pre-registration project. I am sure I had some human help along the way (the magnitude of which I am unable to quantify) but it hasn’t taken away from the wonder. Any such humanly help does not explain Sunderland. Neither does it explain being in the right places at the right times. And it certainly did not explain my moment of truth.

So you see, my God, has given me countless opportunities to marvel, to be astonished, to be inspired……to wonder!

The significance

This is a special month. It is the month that celebrates the birth of a man I now revere so much. The Bible tells me he was conceived in a special and unorthodox way. It involved a visit by an angel Gabriel (or Gabriella). It involved travelling to another country (away from home). It also involved a birth in an animal farm. The baby was laid in a manger, a feeding trough for animals. I am talking about Jesus Christ, the son of God. His story feels me with wonder….what about you?

I wish you a Merry Christmas.

Christmas nativity scene with three Wise Men

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