Nature Meditation #20 – An Inborn Sense of Wonder

“If a child is to keep alive his inborn sense of wonder, he needs the companionship of at least one adult who can share it, rediscovering the joy, excitement and mystery of the world we live in.” – Rachel Carson, The Edge of the Sea

I watch that sense of wonder in my little granddaughter’s eyes. Everything is new, everything is exciting, and she (at 18 months) can’t wait to experience it. Whether Daddy is gardening, Mommy is planting flowers, or Papa is walking with her on the stone path in our backyard, she is taking it all in, living in the moment. I take her on a mini-nature walk, and she touches the leaves, pats the trunks of the trees, and squats low to watch an ant crossing a rock. Then she looks up with wide eyes, a smile on her cherubic face.

Where does it go, that sense of wonder and amazement at the world around us? Where – and when – do we lose it?

Some people don’t lose it. They retain it, and feel that glorious awareness all of their lives. But they are in the minority; according to some studies only one person in ten nurtures an environmental awareness and cares about the world we live in. One in ten.

But what about the others? Where did they lose it? Can they get it back? Or is it lost forever, like believing in Santa Claus, or the Tooth Fairy and the Easter Bunny? Is it part of our passage into adulthood?

In my mind, the loss is the fault of today’s fast-paced society, and our change from an agrarian society dependent on nature’s cycles, to another type of society, dependent upon material things and detached from the very source of the materials required to make them.

Just as our society (the society of the Western world) sees constant growth as a good thing, smaller units of people see that growth as represented by the newest cars, the biggest houses, the latest electronics, etc., etc. I say this without casting any judgment. We are blessed to live in a prosperous time, and even in the current recession, in the U.S. we have more ‘things’ and ‘do’ more things than almost any country on the planet.

But back to my original question. If we all at some point lose our curiosity about nature, when is it most likely to happen? I think probably at puberty. We get distracted by the other sex. Our focus shifts from the world around us to our feelings, our needs and wants. For a time, that curiosity about anything other than sex is subdued.

Buwhat does it take to get it back?

For most of us, at some point, that genetic drive brought on by puberty is sated. We get married, or become part of a couple. Then, we can focus once again on things other than our physical needs. Once we have enough to eat, shelter to live in, and people to share life with, there is an opportunity to find time to rediscover nature.

Survey any group of ‘birders’ (people who like to watch and study birds) and you will see mostly older people. Look at any group visiting national parks, state parks or nature preserves, and the majority of them are older people. Yes, there are families, and yes there are young people  – but they are not the majority. Granted, older people often have the ways and means, including time, to spend time in nature, both for pleasure and for study.

So that’s my hypothesis. What do you think? Is it puberty that kills curiosity about the world around us? Or – does it have more to do with the way we are raised, and the way we were taught to treat ‘nature’ as children?

Sound off!

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