don't close your eyes!

‘the most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. it is the source of all true art and all science. he to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: (their) eyes are closed.’
-albert einstein

author vladimir nabokov will best be know for his novels ‘pale fire’ and ‘lolita’, but even deeper than the initial respect for his writings and word craft is the interest in the way he loved to place a deeper level hidden inside his body of works.

this russian born writer was obsessed with codes and ciphers and was known to put acrostics, number games, and even anagrams hidden in almost all his writings. when questioned why he put so many hidden meanings and messages that both puzzled and lured many readers he responded by exclaiming that (paraphrased) ‘‘the thrill of discovery was one of the miraculous things that life had to offer.’

i am on the constant search of wonder, i feel in a way that technology and the internet has alleviated the need for mankind, or perhaps our generation and those generations to come, to explore. instead of traveling around the world we now can look on wikipedia to break down the city, then watch a youtube segment from a first hand experience, then turn on the cooking channel to get a rough idea of the food in that area. without leaving a 2 foot radius.

‘this world, after all our science and sciences, is still a miracle; wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to whosoever will think of it.’
-t. carlyle

i believe it is time that we begin to take back our child like need of wonder and amazement, we need to embrace the thrill of not only self discovery but discovery in general. i am not insinuating that we should become park rangers or naturalists but i do feel strongly that we need to go out and actually explore this great world, with all its wonder and mystery innately attached.



jeff said…
Great post, Stephen. It's true - in both good and bad ways - what we can do with wikipedia, youtube, and the travel channel. Too many people experience things in these ways, and let that be the limit of the exploration.

I do all of this, but I like to take it one step further, and actually go to the places. TV and the internet can't let you experience the climate, taste the food, smell the people, feel the vibrations and wonder of the city.
aletheia said…
As much as I love science (for its inherent mystery, and the wonder it produces), I think I love even more that it will never be able to explain why my heart starts racing when I hear Adagio for Strings by Samuel Barber, or how Irises by Van Gogh can take my breath away, quite literally. Mystery is the essence of art; art is the best representation of God; God is the meaning of life.
David said…
Agreed. Avoiding risk by searching the internet and "breaking down" the world into bits and pieces of information can ruin my sense of adventure and awe of the universe.

Less internet, more reality.
aimee said…
This is very true - so many people have lost that sense of awe and wonder which lets them believe in miracles. They spend all their time doing the same few things, until even those activities termed spontaneous seem routine. There is just not enough longing for discovery in today's world, a pandemic that gives birth to an generation of skeptics who only care to comprehend that which is placed in front of them.

It's a sad thing, to see or feel something wonderful and have to keep it to yourself, just because no one else will understand it or else will look at you funny. The love I feel for the world is massive, but more often than not I keep it to myself, thinking it's only me that feels this way. So thanks for the's nice to know I'm not the only one. :)
Rover Fox said…
Couldn't have said it truer.
Anonymous said…
This is so true. I believe that this generation is going through a technology shock...I hope the generation to come isn't as lazy and pathetic as this one.
iwanttoplayguitarlikejoeymilligan said…
I agree. Our generation has gotten so comfortable in technology. SO ALL YOU PEOPLE GET OFF THE COMPUTER!! LOL

xmissxamelia said…
This is all very true, for what incredible beauty would the Venus de Milo hold if not for her missing limbs?

However I think technology can also lead to raise the curiosity level. I can't count the times I've seen something on T.V., such as a fun piece of art, outfit, or some kind of dish, and have tried to accomplish similar things myself. Yet, I have lived in this same town since I was three and have only gone to investigate the old ruins behind the Bell building up the street last week.

This generation I'm a part of is struggling against itself, but it's inevitable for the one under mine to have it's imagination ripped out through their eyes as they play games others invented.
ally said…
i know that there is a God because of this-- life will always have its mysteries, its unsolved questions. if i knew it all, i'd be god and that is much too scary a thought for me.
Hayden said…
It's interesting that you just posted this, as I just finished reading 'Angels and Demons' by Dan Brown. From my perspective on the book, I think that it mirrors this belief almost exactly throughout many parts.... and I couldn't agree more!
And after reading the book, I have an extreme urge to get out of the house and go visit Rome myself :)
More Than Alive said…
Ahhhh to explore the world... I certainly wish I could do that more often. Life gets so incredibly hectic and scheduled - taking a moment to dive into the beauties of nature, history, and art is something I have to pencil in here and there to keep me sane. :-) The mysteries of life and history keep me on my toes...

I hope this story doesn't seem too creepy... :-) I grew up in a very historic town in New Jersey... when I was a teenager I used to walk with my brother from my house to the center of town to grab a slice of pizza every now and then. In order to get to the center of town we had to cut through a very old cemetery. My brother and I would spend a lot of time in that huge cemetery wondering about some of the people buried there. We especially grew more curious about what the gargoyles and cherubs meant on some of the tombstones we saw. This curiousity led me to do some research in our town records. I discovered that some of these people (buried in the 1600s/1700s) were actually really important and did amazing things for this country. Some actually attended services at a church building that was abandoned and had always intrigued me growing up (click on the link below to see a pic) I found treasures of knowledge and unveiled some of the mysteries that my little town held secret. It's true...we can learn from history and the discoveries we make.

I have been "on the constant search for wonder" my whole life - it keeps things interesting. :-)
-lindsay- said…
i think about this whenever i see an amazing sunset... and then turn my gaze from the sky to people running around, texting themselves silly or worrying about some guy that they will replace in a few days, not thinking to even look up.
you can tell a lot about a person by how they react when you say 'look, the stars are out...'

someone meantioned going through old graveyards and wondering about the people there, that's something that i do camp, where i volunteer over the summer, we take the campers to an old indian cemetary. also, on a missions trip to alaska, the missionaries showed us the cemetary where local families and missionares had been buried for over one hundred years. one in particular intrigued me: a bush pilot for alaska, born in 1882. he was born before aviation, what must his family have thought when he set off to be a missionary bush pilot in alaska, a place that then was unsetteled and full of natives?
Anonymous said…
i completely agree with the whole internet/tech becoming so dominant. i am quite guilty of this; i'm always appalled at how many hours i manage to spend on facebook in a day, when i should be experiencing worthwhile things, making real memories, being with people, appreciating the beauty of the earth. i'm trying to make a point of the latter, but seems it may take a little while to break the tech habit.
and, by the way, i finished reading the orphaned anythings a few weeks ago. <3 is all i've got to say.
thanks for making me contemplate.
Anonymous said…
I agree with you Stephen.
And I also finished your book recently. I got it on Friday and finished it on Friday. Haha. You are an amazing writer
Katie said…
Very thought-provoking. Personally, I get the greatest sense of wonder from traveling. Not from seeing new places as much as from seeing new people- there are all sorts of things I thought I knew about human nature, that I've since learned are purely cultural. There are things you cannot learn from wikipedia and google. You can see how to make foreign food, but you can't taste it, sold to you by a grimy street vendor on an early summer night. You can see the city layout, but you can't see the way the shadows look on the street at sunrise. You can learn about the culture, but you can't argue about sports with a cabbie who doesn't speak your language. These are things that need to be lived, not learned about. Learning has its place in wonder and awe, but it's the edge where learning ends that mystery begins. And mystery, enigma, these things are the heart of wonder. The ability to appreciate something without really understanding it- that is a priceless gift.
chris said…
reminds me of someone i spoke to a little while ago.
"i want to go to london, then japan, then rio de jenero."
"what for?"
"i want to see the world."
"you should save your money" he said.

i hate the feeling of pseudo-wise people attempting to pass on poisoned knowledge.
Eve said…
This makes me think of a puzzle I had as a little girl. I was fascinated by it. The tiles slid around inside a frame until you got the 7 days of God's creation in order. The big problem for me was my family did not go to church and I did not know the right order. Pictures with the sun, moon, stars, trees, animals, oceans, Adam and Eve were all there. I wanted so badly to get the puzzle solved. I was too young to read or I would have looked it up!

My neighbor boy pointed out that there was a bigger picture behind the little tiles and maybe I should line that up and the details would come into order, {He was a genius, really he is actually a genius}.

Well little Stephens suggestion did the trick and in no time the picture was all in place. He focused on the big, overall picture, and I was stuck in the details of each little square being just right. Together they showed the wonder of all creation. It took both perspectives in our naivety. I wish I still had that thing.

p.s Stephen grew up to be a Psychiatrist specializing in Bi Polar research and still is putting together puzzles, human puzzles. We both became Christians in Jr.Hi. through the unexplainable, complicated, beauty of nature and science blowing us away! There is just no way random collisions made this world! I would never trade growing up on that block...ahh childhood wonder! I hope I can always hold on to a piece of it. Thanks for reminding us of those days.
I love the portion about retaining the child like wonder and self discovery. Children are explorers, trying to discover what the world is about based upon what they "know" to be true already, who they are and who everyone else is. Such a wonderful depiction of what we should be emulating. When we reach adolescence we believe we know everything, who we are, who everyone else is. The world has lost mystery and charm. I guess I'm just weird and still believe that the world is beautiful and there's much more to be discovered.
Rachelogisys said…
I totally agree- it's one of the reasons I decided to study abroad in Japan next spring. To learn firsthand like that and be exposed to such a drastically different culture for a whole semester is such a fantastic opportunity.
As for childlike wonder- Matthew 18:3 says "Truly I tell you, unless you change and become like children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven." So yeah, we should probably get on that.
Jennifer said…
So I'm going to be one of the few people to disagree with (at least part of) your post. I think there’s a bigger problem than just people being satisfied with the discoveries they can make through technology. I think the problem is that due to the ease and immediacy with which exploration can take place and the “instant gratification culture” this creates we’ve lost not curiosity or discovery (perhaps these are even greater now), we’ve lost the desire or even the ability to sit back and take in the thrill and amazement of these discoveries. This can been seen in all facets of life, not just travel or the discovery of new music, but in family life and the workplace. In the hopes of adding to productivity, we’ve eliminated reflection, and that’s a bigger problem than just the difference between discovering things through technology and discovering things in real life. Though I do completely agree that the two will never be the same.

Thanks for giving me a place to stop and reflect. I’m new to your blog and I'm really enjoying reading it.
~Sarah said…
I agree. I mean, what fun is it to be cooped up all the time in the house you know? Not much fun to most people anyhow.
rohou said…
That's funny, I was just reading about Nabokov in the latest WIRED. I totally agree with this.
Anonymous said…
Stephen, you gotta admit, this Obama administration sucks balls.
athena said…
ditto. you read my mine... this is why I feel that life is losing its authenticity as time crawls by. the refusal of many to barge out of their infinitely dimensional avenues makes me sad... or maybe I am just mad
Anonymous said…
so legit.

some of the greatest discoveries in life for me have been the simple things that god has to show me through people and simplicities of life. thanks for your thoughts.

erinel-tawil said…
here's a qoute your post reminded me of,
"Embrace relational uncertainty. It's called romance.
Embrace spiritual uncertainty. It's called mystery.
Embrace occupational uncertainty. It's called destiny.
Embrace emotional uncertainty. It's called joy.
Embrace intullectual uncertainty. It's called revelation."
themockingbyrd said…
I agree that a sense of wonder is at the very least necessary to fully appreciate one's life. That said, I think we--Stephen and the commenting community--have been perhaps too harsh to the advances of modern technology; technology is, in and of itself a marvel, and those cheap renditions of glorious realities--youtube, wikipedia, the cooking channel, etc. are not so much substitutes for those too lazy to enjoy the reality, but they are attempts to make the wonder of our existence on this incomprehensibly intricate and magnificent planet easier to understand. My finances are such that I cannot hope to see all of what I hope to see, but through technology, I can see much more of it. It is principally important to keep our eyes wide with wonder, whether we are investigating the natural world, or exploring the wonders of technology. The world God created, and the world God gave man the ability to create both bring to glory to Him, by way of their complexity.
Anonymous said…
i just wanted to say that for the past few weeks all i can talk about is becoming a park ranger after college. and you used that term. makes my heart explode, in a good way of course.

respect and love.
[Cr*] said…
so true. we waste a lot of time searching for miracles when the fact that we're alive is one of them. since the lungs get the O2, take it to the heart, then though vein, etc ... i always find how our bodies work amazing.
Christina said…
Another insightful post from Stephen. You're abnormally good at these. I agree. your book is being delivered to my house right now, and I thinkity think that you are great at singing and writing. Thanks for using the gifts that God gave you, and keep going strong. :)
kamila said…
Great post :)

My two cents: the best way to travel and experience the world, its people and their culture, nature and the way our own bodies actually work, is through cycling. Do a bike trip along back roads, through tiny towns, meet people who have never seen lycra, and then you'll get a good idea of what the rest of America is like, beyond TV and the internet.

Another two cents: I'm a scientist (grad student in cell biology) and as scientists we're pretty lucky in that every day we get to discover how amazing life really is, even at its most basic level. You can get caught up in the mechanisms of things work, but the wonder never really goes away.
Anonymous said…
Check this out; it seems to run on the same line. The urge to discover is repressed for convenience and a false sense of learning is achieved.
Cassiopeia said…
great post... such true thoughts. standing rapt in awe is something we should all do more often... i love nabakov. sigh.

Victoria Colón said…
I really like your blog. Been here several times. Keep up the excelent work!
Story of a Girl said…
Very true. we need to stand in wonder and awe. I love admiring things like the ocean, the woods, or the sunset for that reason....even though i've seen them a thousand times...they always inspire awe in me. I think when we stop being in awe of our world we become unhappy, bored, skeptical, petty, and so many other things.

Wonder and mystery are gifts! They are what allow us to feel blessed, loved, amazed, etc. It's so crucial to look at God in this way as'll truly lead one to worshipping=)

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