What fills you with wonder?

Amusement When you're trying to align subplots with the main plot

Salutations and Hula Hoops

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Sep 28, 2017
Hi everyone,

That question above – What fills you with wonder? – I've been thinking about it lately, thinking about what I like to read (all kinds of things) and what I like to write (mostly fantasy). I love that feeling of awe, that feeling of smallness that wonderful things engender.

The human spirit does it. I've a friend who has four kids, the youngest are twins. He lost his wife to cancer a few months after they were born. I can't imagine what he's been through in the quiet of his mind, but his kids laugh as they play in the park, and he smiles every day. That fills me with wonder.

The human mind does it. My youngest, a toddler, asked me to look after his juice the other day.
"Daddy, you keep this while I go on the slide."​
"Okay, no problem"​
"Don't drink it!"​
"Don't worry, I won't."​
The exchange made me realise that he'd now got his head around the idea of others and what they might do. His world is now a whole lot bigger. That fills me with wonder.

And the natural world does it (of course it does!). Where to even start with this one? I know how rainbows are made, but that doesn't stop them from being magical. I'd never seen a double one until I came to live in the mountains, and now I've seen several. That fills me with wonder.


What fills you with wonder?

The little things are the greatest things. They're not little at all. They say it all. There was once a poetry challenge in 'The Literary Review' (creation of Daisy Waugh's father, Auberon Waugh)....I hadn't crossed paths with Daisy yet, not till years later when I recruited her for a show on Litopia After Dark...that was such a brilliant series of shows. Hours of great viewing there for any Litopians who haven't caught up with it as yet.

The poem title had to include the word AWE and it got me thinking.

Compute Awe

God at Pearlygates dot com
Designed a world in RAM and ROM
The Programme's called
Till Kingdom Come
No viruses have crashed it yet
Designed by the devil at hell dot net
Old Nick the Hacker means to win
So far he's failed. We're still logged in
And hear the God-computer hum
The Universal sound of Ommmmmmmm

Creation real and unpretending
Countless files and files still pending
From here to nebulas most far
From single cell to giant star
And all a life from birth to death
And in-between its every breath
The highest inspiration
And spirits destination
The ROM, the Universal Laws
The RAM is chance and choices
Error, flaws
of Life that cannot be destroyed
Its bits and bytes just redeployed
In awe I stand
In hope I pray
The Programme runs till Judgement Day.
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Thankfully, I've retained a childlike wonder at the world. As Harry Emerson Fosdick said: "I would rather live in a world where my life is surrounded by mystery than live in a world so small that my mind could comprehend it."

For four years, from 2004-2008 I lived on a sheep farm on Bodmin Moor. About the only thing that had changed in the view from my cottage in the previous 400 years, when the farmstead was originally founded, were the Electricity Board's poles carrying power to the site—and they were historical artefacts too, for some bore a metal date plate denoting when they were installed—1938!

A stream ran through the bottom of the valley, bordered by trees, some of which were hundreds of years old. A beech tree that had been felled in the 1950s, owing to rot, had been reduced to a stump. Gently mouldering, it had become host to a myriad of plants, including fungi, lichens, moss, and they were the homes and hunting grounds of hundreds of tiny insects. I crouched there one evening, watching all of this activity upon what was miniature verdant pasture, wondering at the complexity of ecosystems.
"A lot of different things" is probably my answer but still, one moment in my life does stand out in terms of wonderment:

I was once climbing in the Langdale Pikes. It was December, the valley was filled with mist (which I climbed out of at around 2,000 feet) and the sun was low. Beside Pike O'Stickle I saw my own shadow, projected into the hanging valley beyond. I was the size of a house and I was wearing an enormous rainbow-coloured halo [this was in the days of analogue photography and I had - inevitably - already run out of film].

Thinking this was The Greatest Thing Ever, I moved on to Harrison Stickle, and there I saw the same thing again only this time all of the air around and above me filled with glittering white disks. Luckily, at that moment I didn't know the science behind these effects (the shadows are "Broken Speckter", the haloes are "glories" and they can often be sighted when low sunlight passes through a cloud's upper surface at high altitude) so they were experiences of more or less pure wonder. I also came to understand how (if you were some mystical hermit up a mountain two thousand years ago) you could start to believe in angels and always visualise them wearing haloes.
Gracious,@Andrew Okey. Would love to see that. Been there many times but not seen that sight!

Re pattern perception run amok. It may do. The break in pattern is equally, if not more, the thing to watch for. Greta Thunberg is a child, now a corporate pet, and doesn't begin to know her palaeontology. The sheer mess is a serious matter, and the horrific truth is, we are too numerous and shall be dealt with by nature if we don't look tidy and reduce our own numbers, but it won't impact the underlying, overarching cycle of warming and cooling.
For me, there are different types of wonder:

1. there's the breath-taking wonder I felt driving through the Canadian Rockies, every corner we turned was a picture postcard;
2. there's humbling wonder when I see the power of nature at work, like a fire or the damaging effects of the weather or like watching the water cascade over Nigara Falls;
3. there's admiring wonder at how authors like Sir Terry Pratchett can use words to entertain;
4. there's disbelieving wonder like when I stood today and managed (once up) for 20 secs to let go with my good hand and only hold on with the right (strapped on);
5. then there's childlike wonder - the way an animal stretches or sleeps (used to be babies!), a shooting star and movies with colours that mesmerise like Finding Nemo.

I'm sure there's more, but that's a start. I'm a big wonder person, that's why I write it.
I sit up all day now, but it's still hard to control when we turn corners in the car. And I can't rest it on the table where I sit. My neck hurts and it's hard to swallow. The joys :) I don't think a day passes where I don't choke on saliva!
I wonder at, and am daily grateful for, my wife's ability to put up with me. Seriously, she is some kind of super-angel.
Beyond that, like others, it tends to be the natural world, everything from the very big (How can the Universe be infinite? How can it not? The infinity of numbers) to the very small (The scales on a butterflies wing; the delicate fragrance of the same. The incomprehensible fact that there is more space than matter in the most solid material.).
Speaking of numbers, my son recently showed me this, which I think is rather cool:
I'm in awe of life. Having lost siblings and friends over the years, I'm all too aware of its fragility. A great, but elderly, friend is undergoing heart surgery soon and I feel sick with anxiety for him. And posts such as yours, @RK Capps , make me humble and grateful for my health. I wish you well. :)

Birdsong always makes me turn, too, and those wee sparrows that flit from table to table on the Spanish seafront, searching for crumbs. I love them. I'm so clumsy; most of my food ends up on the ground :)
Morning mist on the peaks and folds of the Himalayas when I was privileged to hike in the Annapurna about 30 years ago. Machapuchare is sublime.
Elephant grass swaying in the dawn sunlight. Elephants right beside it going dunka dunka dunka, as they walk.
The afternoon breeze blowing the white voile curtain away from the open window – like a very un-frightening ghost – as I type this. Blue sky beyond.
Palm trees casting long shadows on the lawn. Shadows are always best in the late afternoon. (We're renting this apartment and leave in two weeks. I'm savouring everything about it.)
Oh, listen – that's the birds at it again. Gotta go... :D
What a wonderful thread this has turned out to be! Thanks everyone! :)

A couple more things.

There's a bit of mountain near us, a knobbly bit at the end of a spur, strikingly different from the smooth peaks around it. It's a pluton, a bit of crystallized magma spat out of the earth, four kilometres long and thirteen-hundred metres high at its peak; goodness knows how deep are its roots (goodness and geologists, I suppose). Serious people climb it at weekends. It's one bit of rock, one giant stone. I see it each day and feel humble.

And my oldest just gave me a hug, for unspoken reasons of his own.
My wonders are varied.

Serendipity in hard times always fills me with wonder: those little things that happen just when you need them the most.

Nature, I'm forever in awe. I once saw a circular rainbow. No idea where the pot of gold was hidden in this one. The middle maybe. It was winter. I was on skis. I wasn't going to look. I was on top of a mountain, and xillions of snow crystals created the most amazing circular rainbow. It sparkled. That was my pot of gold.

Space, blimmin big. How did that happen. The distances are hard to grasp.

A bit closer to home, there have been days on which I've been filled with wonder at the sheer fact I managed to get out of bed, get dressed in the correct clothes, and turn up at the right place on time. And that's those very days, serendipity happens and I'm filled with wonder as I go to bed.
There was a double rainbow when we left the crematorium after my favourite auntie’s funeral. None of us are religious, but if ever the universe seemed to be sending a message, that was it.

It blows me away how animals of different species can become friends. I’ve no doubt animals feel love.

It’s also amazing to consider the 1 in 400 trillion probability of any human becoming born.

Obviously the natural world in all its glory is awesome, but I’m almost embarrassed to admit that human achievements impress me even more. The buildings we create, the literature, paintings, mythologies, music, feats of heroism and kindness. The horrible flip side is how uniquely destructive we are.
When I see a daisy close up for the night and open up to the sun, that fills me with wonder.
The swallows that are making a nest just outside my bedroom window; the babies will start waking us up from about 4 am in the next few weeks.
The tiniest of shells we are finding in the garden: we've identified blackbird, bluetit, robin- we found one, the size of the top of one of my fingers and there was an imprint of a feather on the inside of the shell.
Bees, we have a bumblebee hive in a pile of garden cuttings and sticks that we now can't move... the garden is being planted and dug around it :)
We were watching ants today: one was dragging an earwig (successfully) even though the earwig was at least 6x its size.
I am also filled with wonder at serendipity, like tiny miracles in our every day.
What fills me with wonder is that I can step out my door and be filled with wonder at any time of day or night :)

But some specific things:
That I can look up at night and see the same stars, the same constellations as people I love who are on the other side of the planet from me and so distant--somehow those far more distant stars make the distance between me and my friends shorter.

The noddy's flycap growing in my vegetable garden--a mysterious fungus only recorded a few times (and not even properly named by scientists yet (though I have the skinny on the proposed name--to be kept secret for now)). My garden hosts the most southernmost known population on the planet.

The confidence with which my children have taken on the world as they begin to make their way in it on their own.

Earthquakes--the feel of solid earth shaking so violently you can barely stay on your feet, and how my little old house shimmies and sways in the big ones. I cross the Greendale fault regularly, and never cease to marvel at the perfectly straight road that now sports a dramatic bend.

Waves on our beach during a storm--pushed by howling wind all the way from Antarctica to churn the beach to rocky froth.

The Southern Alps after a snowstorm. (Or before one, or during one...hell, any time those mountains are awe inspiring)

Smiling at a stranger and seeing them smile back.
Many things fill me with wonder, but it is perhaps the most pronounced when I stargaze. The idea that each of those stars is a sun, and that the nearly every one of them has at least one planet orbiting it. And that what I can see is just a fraction of what it there. The universe is vast. And amazing.
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Amusement When you're trying to align subplots with the main plot

Salutations and Hula Hoops