A Sense of Wonder

From my 2001 book Hoover’s Vision:   

“Wisdom begins in wonder” — Socrates
Watch what children do when they are brought into a new environment. Notice how curious they are. Nothing escapes their attention. They become absorbed in things we consider commonplace. The world is new, a landscape without limits, full of wonderful sights and sounds and ideas.
Once upon a time we were like that. What happened? Maybe it was our school, our parents; maybe we’ve seen too much, listened to too many news stories; maybe it’s having to work, or just living in the world. We are perilously close to a perpetual state of “can’t be impressed,” “seen it all,” “been there, done that” — a condition that can be fatal to the mind.
The first thing we need to do is get back our childlike sense of wonder. Do you know how to say, “Oh, wow!”? In order to understand the present and the future, to see the opportunities that lie all around us, we must recapture the ability and the willingness to be amazed. 
When was the last time some new bit of knowledge took your breath away?
·       Just west of Java, in what we know today as Indonesia, there was once a volcanic island known as Krakatau. In 1883, Krakatau obliterated itself in the fiercest volcanic explosion of modern times. The sound was heard 2,800 miles away. The tide shifted in the English Channel, nearly the opposite point on the globe.
·       Baby blue whales gain 200 pounds a day for the first seven months of life.
·       The arctic tern, a bird that weighs less than two pounds, follows the summer from pole to pole, spending most of its life in daylight, almost never landing. It migrates over 18,000 miles each year — over its twenty-year life span, more than the distance to the moon and back (even going further than my ’69 Chevy).
Nature is not the only source of wonder. Humans can accomplish amazing feats, and the results are all around us:
·       A fully loaded Boeing 747 weighs over 700,000 pounds when it takes off. One hundred years ago we couldn’t have lifted one pound into the air using wing technology — unless we had a carrier pigeon nearby.
·       Today, in your neighborhood, a supermarket brings you the best of the world’s produce, the freshest and safest products, at low prices, twenty-four hours a day. No one gives this a second thought; no one ever seeks out and thanks the manager.
·       Last night, a huge team of people looked at all the developments in the world in the last twenty-four hours, summarized them, printed them in a newspaper, then rolled it up and put it on your doorstep — for less than a dollar.

If you cannot be amazed by facts like these, if you cannot say, “Oh, wow!” then you probably should put this book down and go on to something else. With an underdeveloped sense of wonder, you can’t be amazed at human enterprise. You won’t be able to create or lead such an enterprise, because you won’t have adequate respect for its tremendous power.