Wonder (by Wayne Kiehne)
What if I told you that we live in a magical world? Everyone loves a refreshing visit to the fantasy world of their favorite book. This is especially true of children. There is a reason why many of the greatest and most popular works of literature in both the past (Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia) and present (Harry Potter) are stories full of magic. We love to be enchanted, and those stories are nothing if not enchanting. The perpetual love for such stories is an encouraging sign, but we must not forget that we, like Frodo and the Pevensie children and Harry Potter, also live in a magical world. Rather than seeking an escape through story, we should use our “excursion into the preposterous” to “send us back with renewed pleasure for the actual” (C.S. Lewis).
If you remain unconvinced of my assertion that our world is one full of magic, allow me a moment to make my case. Thousands of miles above your head, there are stars and galaxies and balls of fire hurtling through the air at light speed. Take a moment to step outside and look around. Most likely you will see some living creatures, which you might know as “plants,” that can quite literally make food out of sunlight. A quick survey of life within the depths of the ocean might look more like something out of a comic book than this boring old thing we call “real life.”
Here’s a fun fact: did you know that there are approximately 6,500 different languages in the world? That was not a typo. If you’re fascinated by the idea of discovering communication from extraterrestrial life or speaking with Elves, you might begin to scratch that itch by studying the secrets of the 6,499 languages that are yet unknown to you.
How about this one: human beings can create worlds with their minds. Don’t believe me? Close your eyes and listen to someone read a passage from your favorite novel. A man put letters on a page, and suddenly there is an entire universe bursting with all its vibrant wonders inside your head. At times, it will feel as real as the things you can touch and taste and see.
If you remain steadfast in your belief that we live in a mundane and ordinary world, then consider music. Sounds coming out of a box or a string or a tube or a mouth have the power to move a soul, and to put it in touch with things far beyond the physical world. If music is not magic, then neither is a silly little spell coming out of a wand.
Every day, we wake up surrounded by endless spectacular marvels and yet have the audacity to act as if we are bored, as if we live in a rather dull place. It’s a crime, and we mustn’t allow ourselves to fall into such a deadly trap. More than that, we need to reignite that awe within our children. As a teacher, it may be true that the most important thing I can do for my students is awaken the flame of wonder that resides deep inside them.
How can you do that, you ask? Step one: lead by example. Log out of Twitter, put down your phone, open your eyes, and be amazed. Don’t believe that age old lie. Curiosity did not kill the cat. Curiosity never killed anybody. Nosiness did. Curiosity only ever gave life — a life worth living.
Wayne is an assistant teacher for Great Hearts Archway Arete in Arizona, where he has lived his whole life. He enjoys mildly unhealthy obsessions with comic books, theology, and the classical tradition.