Where has all the wonder gone?

In Consciousness, Pronoia by Nick Chan

“Magic is essentially a method by which one interacts with Wonder” 

I woke in the midst of a severe viral infection sometime back when something hit me. Now, many things have hit me before; Dad, Mom, Molecules, ex-girlfriends… but this felt different. Lying there in a haze of anti-biotics and anti-histamines, it took awhile for thoughts to crystallize into a seemingly final statement: ANDY WARHOL WAS WRONG.

The iconic artist once quipped, “In the future, everyone will be world-famous for 15 minutes”. I realised this was only partly true. Restating him orthogonally seemed to bring more light to his truism.

In the future, everyone will be an artist, writer, politician, musician, creative, destructive, vegetarian, animal, poledancer, yoga-teacher etc. for 15 minutes. Everyone will become an expert.
While that seemed to sit better with reality, it also came at a price which was the displacement of the feeling of wonder.

To me, wonder has always sat comfortably between unknowing and the desire to find out more. These days, that notion seems awfully skewed as many seem to mistake access to information with actual depth or knowing anything at all.

You might have  experienced it yourself, when the rules of conversation online changed. When you asked someone if they knew about X, and got a one-liner 8 seconds later defining X in almost academic terms. It would kinda put you off coz you’d think, “I was trying to have a conversation about something, not ask you which version of Google you have”.

I don’t consider myself old, hardly, yet I remember a time when I could be shown any number of things such as a magic trick, an F-15 Eagle jet fighter(at an air-show) or an art installation and go “Wow, that’s amazing! How is that even possible?”. I’d be filled with wonder and amazement, prompting me to find out more. Even after I’d grok the underlying tech, that feeling of wonder would persist, often setting me off on a dramatic new course or at least an enhanced appreciation of things.

I consider that a healthy relationship with technology and knowledge. I’m not sure when all this started to change. I saw it in myself and others. When that wonder started to become more fleeting and ephemeral. When the ability to be surprised got replaced by platitudes like “Oh, he used that app/software/plugin to do that. Oh, yeah, it’s just like what Wikipedia says, big deal”. Or worse still, “Sure, I could do that too. And coz I think I can, I don’t need to try.”

Now I’m all for Wikipedia, the marvels of technology and having collective aggregated information at my fingertips. I can even appreciate the relative utility of the occasional bout of self-deception. But perhaps we’d be better off asking ourselves,

“What is my angle to it, is it offering a peek at more possibility? Am I expanding my world while retaining the ability to be surprised, or just explaining things away with knowledge I didn’t earn myself?”

I don’t know about you, but for me, this ability to be surprised is very precious. Framing genuine interest and fascination with things, it underlies having a passion for… anything. But perhaps most importantly, the ability to be surprised functions as the best antidote to cynicism. And while being cynical can be fashionable and sometimes give good humour, especially for those with their sense of hope submerged in feces, I’ve learned the hard way where it can only lead. And that is to a place where the cynic has the dubious honor of having proven himself right.

Featured Image Credit: John Tenniel, 1882 edition of Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland

About the Author
Nick Chan

Nick Chan

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Nick divides time between music and sound-stuff, in both work and leisure capacity. As a budding game designer, he has not released anything.

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