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Why Wonder Comes Before Wisdom

Wonder opens you to the present moment

A grey statue of woman overlooking garden and lake.
Gazing in wonder at a winter scene at Evergreen.

Recently, I saw engraved on an arch in a residential facility at the University of Western Australia:

The beginning of wisdom is wonder.

I was the passenger in the car cruising along Stirling Highway so was able to crane my neck to re-read it and burn it into my brain. The beginning of wisdom is wonder. Hmm. It seemed to be saying that if I want to have wisdom I should pack as much wonder into my life as possible.

To wonder is to consider something as marvellous, miraculous, or worthy of astonishment.

I seldom marvel, have never seen a miracle and my gasps of astonishment are rare. It seems that wisdom is to be denied me unless I get on a plane to see the Taj Mahal (marvellous), dip my aging body in the healing waters of the Dead Sea and watch all my wrinkles disappear (miraculous), or stay awake to watch the next eclipse (worthy of astonishment — the me staying awake bit).

Wonder is too hard to find.

Or is it?

Maybe something worthy of wonder is right here, right now.

I look out of the car window and see the iconic Blue Boatshed that has become an Instagram superstar. Then I spy a dog running. The sparking waters of the Swan River. A row of giant English plane trees dancing their leaves in the breeze. A ferry boat cutting a wake on the way to Rottnest Island with a bunch of hatted holidaymakers on board. People on bikes whizzing along the path that follows the contours of the river as closely as a pair of tight jeans on a voluptuous woman’s hips. Seagulls swerving in the wind. The cloudless sky. A bridge.

I turn my wondering attention to the car, a silver SUV now making its way along the curving ramp onto the freeway. Tyres spinning on a spinning Earth, the windscreen letting in light, the recliner button on the seat, the belt that keeps me safe.

And sitting inside this car is me. I start to wonder about myself — how my skin holds me together, so I don’t spill out onto the seat in a gory mess; how I keep breathing without having to think about it; how I can even choose to wonder, or not.

As I settle into the speeding rhythm of the freeway and keep an eye out for the Armadale Road exit, I keep thinking about the link between wonder and wisdom. Why does wonder come before wisdom? What does wonder do, that lets wisdom in?

Wonder brings me to the moment. Wonder opens the moment, allows the moment to reveal itself.

Wonder doesn’t involve facts. It involves acceptance. Wonder is fluid. It allows questions and doesn’t demand answers.

Wonder is wide open.

Wonder comes first because wisdom needs an opening. Wisdom can’t enter a closed mind. Wonder is a figurative WELCOME mat for wisdom.

Wise people are full of wonder.

There are two ways to experience a moment: with a ‘ho hum, here we go again’, or with wonder.

From now on I’ll choose wonder.

With love, Marlane

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