‘Be amazed, seek wonder, tell the world about it’
Wonder surrounds us. Yeats said, “the world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” The problem is one of attention; in our hurried and frenetic lifestyles, we all-too-often miss the collaborations of the sacred and the mystical in everyday life.
Since the enlightenment of the late 17th and early 18th century the rise of scientific method somehow made us sceptical of the religious institution. There was a standoff between church and science that ended up reinforcing a dualistic construct of the divine and its relation to all matter. A proponent of science, Frances Bacon called wonder “Broken knowledge”, and determined to fill the gap with scientific rigor; the church chose to fill that mysterious gap with a sacred awe.
Perhaps wonder is the common ground. Maybe science was always meant to provide another angle on the wonder that hides in plain sight waiting for us to notice. Four hundred years on I would like to think that we are beginning to embrace a more unitive consciousness, a way of seeing the universe through multiple lenses of clarity. Science and religion equally contributing to the grand narrative of our becoming. We know more about our universe than we have ever known, but scientists and priests can agree that there is still much to be explored, still so much mystery, still something bigger than us.
Descartes claimed that wonder is innate in human beings, in fact he called it our most fundamental emotion. When we are deprived of wonder we revert back to a primitive way of being where beauty and amazement become hijacked and subjugated to the rational and propositional.
Wonder challenges the familiar, calling into question its long-term relevance in our evolution. Wonder conjures and proposes alternative futures drawing from a deep well of hopefulness that drives the universe. This imagination walks hand-in-hand with the search for truth and knowledge.
What if wonder is the accidental impetus behind our greatest achievements, a curiosity and inquisitiveness that fuels our imagination with inventiveness?
If wonder is around us, if the sacred is hiding in our ordinary lives, how can we train ourselves to see it? In an extraordinary partnership between science and religion, scientists have discovered that the act of meditation not only strengthens the parts of our brain responsible for imagination, but deeply affects our sense of self, reducing our self-centredness and helping us reframe ourselves as part of a larger universe.
Perhaps meditation is not only teaching us how to imagine a larger, more wonderful universe, but to realise our place in it. As Yeats says, the world is full of magic, if only we would take the time to see it.