Do you remember that feeling as a child, when you saw the Christmas tree for the first time during the holiday season? Maybe it was your first flight or seeing your child or grandchild for the first time that made you feel something beyond words, something that transcends everyday life. It’s a feeling that we describe as awe or wonder; it’s magic that leaves an imprint.

Although we each have our own precious moments of awe and wonder, we are inclined to leave it to the world to bring these special moments to us. Recently I visited Canada’s National Gallery where it’s pretty much non-stop wonder for me. Visiting the aboriginal exhibit, seeing how early craftspeople made tools and garments leaves me feeling overwhelmed because their resourcefulness and skills are so impressive. Seeing the work of Canadian artists who capture the essence of a boreal forest with colours that don’t exist in nature, but they convince us otherwise leaves me speechless. We are swept up in wonder; as we participate in this creative connection and we allow ourselves to step away from our ruminating mind, to stand in awe. I love to visit the National Gallery because I know that I’ll be inspired to look at life differently.

“The key to a wonderful life is to never stop wandering into wonder.” – Suzy Kassem (writer)

Think of a wedding, where family and friends gather to celebrate love between two people. It’s such a joyful and powerful experience for those in attendance, often moving them to shed happy tears. That’s awe and wonder in action. Sometimes watching a sunrise or a sunset can inspire a strong emotional response. We can call that everyday wonder because these events happen every day. Research tells us that nourishing awe and wonder in our lives is a healthy coping tool, often strengthening our connection with others when we share the experience.

Being in nature is not only awe inspiring, its medicine for us humans. Japanese culture promotes forest bathing or shinrin-yoku, shinrin: forest and yoku: bathing, where people are encouraged to experience the wonder of nature without distraction, walk at a slow pace and notice their surroundings. The benefits of this practice include improved immunity, lung, and heart function as well as memory, and focus. Forest bathing is an excellent antidote for stress and anxiety and is helpful with recovery from injury.

“Look up at the stars and not down at your feet. Try to make sense of what you see and wonder about what makes the universe exist. Be curious.” -Stephen Hawking (Cosmologist)

I’m old enough to remember dial telephones and party lines. I love those experiments where they put young kids in front of a dial telephone and ask them if they know how it works. Most of the time they have no idea and that’s just to demonstrate how far we’ve come and how quickly technology has been evolving.  I asked Chat GPT, an artificial intelligence language model that has been trained to produce human-like text, to tell me how a rotary phone works and in seconds I had a pretty thorough explanation. While Artificial Intelligence or AI is one of mankind’s greatest achievements, it comes with plenty of warnings. While we need to embrace technology to stay relevant, as a society, we need to be cautious around its use. Sure, it can respond to questions effectively and efficiently, but I wonder who’s curating the information being shared. I wonder about AI’s impact on our workforce, but I don’t doubt the positive impact it can and will have in our world.

“You will enrich your life immeasurably if you approach it with a sense of wonder and discovery and always challenge yourself to try new things.”  – Nate Berkus (designer)

To be alive today is to live in an era of wonder. We’ve witnessed some of mankind’s greatest successes but we’re also experiencing some detrimental effects from some of these great accomplishments. Because so many of us are connected to our devices, there’s a loneliness epidemic and while there are and will be many innovations to help connect us as humans, nothing is better than human to human connection. At least for now, there’s no heart and soul in what Chat GPT produces and this is what we humans require. Let’s embrace these technological innovations with a beginner’s mindset and not get disillusioned because while change is inevitable, our world is a pretty remarkable place. Let’s choose an approach of wonder and awe about it instead of deciding to be afraid of it.

There are two ways to live: you can live as if nothing is a miracle; you can live as if everything is a miracle. – Albert Einstein

Let’s be life-long learners, excellent students of wonder and awe in our every day. As corny as it may sound, there’s magic in seeing the beauty in nature: watching a bird feeding or flying, noticing the intricacies in a flower and marveling at it all. See all your life as the miracle it is and take your sense of wonder with you wherever you go and hopefully you’ll inspire others to do the same.


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