Wonder has to be experienced before anyone can hope to understand it. Unfortunately, the impersonal method of writing about wonder can at best offer glimpses of wonder instead of its encompassing embrace. If one hopes to experience wonder then I would advise them to wake up early in the morning before the world wakes from its slumber, gaze at the majestic stars above thy head, and allow the mind to ponder the beautiful illuminations and one’s position of adoration of the incomprehensible sky. As the Integrated Humanities Program (IHP) realized, “when man looks at the stars he is struck with wonderment, and wonder, the Greeks said, is the beginning of the desire to know” (Robert Carlson, Truth on Trial: Liberal Education Be Hanged. Location of Publication Unknown: Crisis Books, 1995, 33). The interaction with the stars opened the students up to a world which was blossoming before their eyes. This world was full of beauty, truth, friendship, love and all of the other sensory-emotional experiences a person hopes to fill their life. One may ask the question, “Is looking up at the sky all I have to do to start experiencing and understanding wonder?” The answer is, “Yes!” Experiencing truth and beauty firsthand through the use of one’s senses is how wonder begins. The medium can and will change, such will be the case of substituting stars with literature, person to person interactions, and so on. Long story short, the individual must come into direct contact with a medium for truth and beauty then allow the mind to love and appreciate the beauty and truth being experienced though the senses.
Another concrete example of wonder at work, once again, comes from the IHP:
The IHP also offered Latin, taught in the beginning entirely by the oral method, that is, without the use of a textbook or formal grammar. This course was, as everything was in the IHP, presented in the poetic mode. The students, by listening carefully and repeating what they hear, learned to speak very simple Latin from their memories much like children begin to learn their native language without any study of grammar, without any books. This was gymnastic in that it allowed for direct wrestling with the Latin; it was musical in that it brought forth much delight and laughter in the challenge and mistakes of trying to conduct an entire lesson without using any English, pointing, gesturing, acting out, the words and meaning instead. Books and grammar were not excluded altogether if the student decided to continue with Latin, but they were simply delayed so that the mind would not be filled with paradigms and rules and all the systems of a disintegrated language. Rather, the student would have in the memory the sounds of Latin words and phrases used in real conversation. Once again, the emphasis was to do Latin, not to study it (James L. Taylor, Poetic Knowledge. Albany, N.Y.: State University of New York Press, 1998, 152).
This “delay of paradigms and rules and all the systems of disintegration” can and will be said about learning any science or discipline. If the individual only has the disintegrated aspects of any science or discipline the individual will not and cannot love and appreciate it because the individual does not know enough about the science or discipline for love to overcome the lust. All things in this world can be lusted after but can fall short of love because the soul has not experienced it and the intellect has not come to understand it. If and when the soul and intellect experience truth and beauty, the fruit of the interaction is wonder. This wonder is experienced, not taught. The experience of raising a child illustrates this point.
The anticipation of the birth and joy of being able to hold one’s child soon begins to enter into a deeper love and sense of wonder as the raising of a child is experienced. Reading a book about paradigms and rules of raising a child when experience has been gained allows the individual to properly place the information into a lived experienced in which growth occurs. As in the case of learning Latin, it is through the direct experience of doing the discipline in which one begins to understand it and once it is understood love and wonder increases. The love of the child, gained through the experience of raising the child, far surpasses any disintegrated theory of how to best love a child. The experience of gazing at the beauty and innocence of the child, fills an individual with wonder. This is what can be said about wonder. The more time an individual spends living in a perpetual sense of wonder, the more love of truth, beauty and goodness the individual begins to experience. Yes, paradigms and rules eventually play a factor but the IHP knows in order to gain this appreciation and love of learning and knowledge it has to be experienced, not taught in theory, but practiced. May God give us all the grace to live in a perpetual sense of wonder.
This is the second in a series of guest posts by Brad Bolt.