After he arrived and we sat down to dine and the tea was poured, I opened the conversation with this, "Dharma, you've been coming here every Wednesday now for several years. The lessons you teach me are wise and very helpful. I am a better, nicer, smarter frog because of you. But I want to know is how you became so wise?" The look on Dharma's face was one of extreme pride. He was positively beaming! "Tadpole, a frog's wonder is the beginning of his wisdom. The fact that you are wondering about how we become wise shows me that you have, indeed, been paying attention to our lessons all these years. Frogs, humans too, I suspect, who aren't curious about the world around them will never attain true wisdom. Aristotle believed that it was wonder which led the first philosophers to philosophy. He surmised that anyone who is puzzled by the workings of life believes themselves to be ignorant. They then begin to philosophize to escape ignorance. In other words, my boy, wonder leads to thinking. And thinking, in turn, helps eliminate ignorance. Curiosity expands the mind. With expansion comes wisdom. Poets and philosophers are alike in being big with wonder. My boy, if Plato, Aristotle, and Aquinas are correct in attributing philosophy—and, by extension, science, religion, art, and all else that transcends everyday existence—to wonder, then it becomes important to ask, what exactly is wonder? "By this point, I was riveted. I had to know more about wonder and the process of becoming wise.
Dharma explained that wonder "is a complex emotion involving elements of surprise, curiosity, contemplation, and joy. It is perhaps best defined as a heightened state of consciousness and emotion brought about by something singularly beautiful, rare, or unexpected—that is, by a marvel."
"Dharma, are wonder and awe the same thing?" "They're very similar, my boy, but awe is more explicitly directed at something much greater or more powerful than we are. Compared to wonder, awe is more closely associated with fear, respect, reverence, or veneration than with joy. Awe is also less detached than wonder, which allows for greater and freer contemplation of the object. Does that answer your question, Irwin?" I was getting the idea but I still wanted to know more.
Wonder, according to my wise teacher, involves "significant elements of surprise and curiosity, both of which are forms of interest. And interest, or curiosity, is what leads to wisdom. To be curious about something is to desire knowledge of that thing. Knowledge extinguishes curiosity but not wonder." And wonder can be excited by almost anything, natural phenomena, beautiful scenery, great achievements by others, or even by extraordinary facts. Wonder is expressed, says Dharma, by a bright-eyed stare that is sometimes accompanied by an opening of the mouth and a suspension of the breath. By drawing us out of ourselves, wonder reconnects us with something much greater and higher than our daily humdrum. Think of a child at Christmas. That is pure wonderment!
Wonder entices us but, sadly, many humans do not open themselves to wonder, for fear that it may distract them, overwhelm their resources, or upset their equilibrium.
Dharma wrapped up my lesson on wonder with this. "To wonder is also to wander, to stray from society and its norms and constructs, to be alone, to be free. Society often dismisses wonder as childish and self-indulgent. Society wants us to simply accept 'what it' and to never question why or how. Adults don't have time for such nonsense. So much of that is true, my boy. Children brim with wonder. Life is full of interesting and curious things to investigate. That is how children learn about the world they live in. Until one day, that curiosity is drained out of them. Too often these days humans study, not for the sake not of learning or marveling but of improving their career prospects, and so they pass by the wonder and wisdom that might have saved them from needing a career in the first place."
Before he left my pad for the week, Dharma encouraged me to wonder more. To study something not because I think it'll help me earn more money or to do something better, but simply because I find it fascinating...whatever that "it" might be. Curiosity is a good thing. Wisdom comes out of it. My dear old teacher, The Dharma Frog, admitted to being curious about everything and that is, he speculates, why others like me, think he is so wise. He has spent his entire life in wonder. I want to be like that, too.
I hope you enjoyed learning about wonder and wisdom as much as I have. And please stop back by tomorrow when we'll visit a few more ancient cities that still exist today. it's never too early to start planning your next summer vacation!
Until we meet again,