I often climbed trees when I was a kid. I would limb up and find a crotch in the tree and settle in there, the higher up the better. I wanted to see far and wide. It was quiet, and I was left alone to think and observe. I did not understand the perceived oddness of this at the time, but I do now.
What we have lost ? We used to be forced to wonder, about stuff, people, places. We were forced to do so through the threat of boredom; "mom, I'm bored !". It was almost a mantra.
As a kid, even as young adult up until the mid 90's when I was 30 years old, I had many questions, but answers were not at the fingertips. There was no internet. Back then we had to wait until we could physically go look them up, in a library, a book, encyclopedia - that is, if the answers were even there anyways. When we were younger, asking our parents for answers took us only so far, it only took us to their limits.
Today, kids, even adults, no longer have to wonder, and certainly not for long. Today the gap between question and answer is merely as long as the time it takes to pick up a smartphone and "Google" it.
What have we lost in arresting that period of wonderment, where we used to sit in the gap, the gap between Q and A ? Something immense was lost, I believe. We are losing something as adults as well, we are just as guilty now thanks to the likes of Steve Jobs.
In my 51 years, my biggest epiphanies have come from hours of wonderment. I am pathologically curious. Wonderment takes time if you welcome its muse. From long walks, hikes, sitting on my parents porch as a young man or today doing the same as an adult, or on weekends working in my gardens, silence was, and is, welcomed.
Wonderment is useful, just mulling things over, playing out options, possibilities, algorithms. Einstein used to call them "thought experiments", we know where they took him. I love that time to mull and think, of mentally approaching things from different angles and perspectives, of imagining different outcomes. If kids these days, or even young and older adults, would just stop and mull, think, imagine, or wonder when they find themselves bored or needing an answer instead of reaching for their phone, they just might develop some valuable skills. In our laziness and desire for instant answers, mental skills are being stolen by our modern day tech. We just might be robbing ourselves from developing the genius that can come from long periods of quiet, of observation, of wonderment.
I have to admit, some of my greatest clinical insights as a student of human movement have come from long periods of wonderment. What intrigues me is when logically proposed wonderment is attacked. What I am referring to is the rare, yet often enough, occurrence on my clinical blog (thegaitguys.com) where a fresh idea or theory, a thought perhaps admittedly without a solid research base is attacked as unsubstantiated. Sometimes, I am left rolling my eyes when some purist in the comments section might write, "show me the research and data on this idea, otherwise it's crap". Questioning something unsubstantiated is just fine with me, but attacking is not. When did fresh ideas become crap, unworthy of consideration? Research does not necessarily set up our rules and guidelines to follow, it is perhaps more so there to foster our present knowledge on a topic, to afford us with information to base choices and thoughts upon. If someone thinks that the up to date research on a topic is the template, then they will be stuck in time. Growth will evade them. I feel sorry for those people, I feel sorry that their biases were not confirmed, that their belief system has felt questioned and rattled. I fear for these folks, they will never develop their own thoughts, never their own moments of Einsteinian genius. They will merely be followers of others research and work, never free thinkers, and certainly never become those researchers who had just the same sort of questions and wonderment and yet sought out to prove or disprove their wonderment. The world has proven over and over again that the free thinkers, the wonderers, are often the leaders, the risk takers, the inventors, the forgers of human progress. And, they are handsomely rewarded for their time, at the risk of looking like a fool. I feel blessed when I can steal a mere shot glass of insight from the deep wells of these types of people. All great ideas first started with a thought, a hypothesis, a wonderment. Just because no one has written a paper on a topic does not mean the ideas are invalid or not worthy of consideration. This is how we all grow, these wonderments, it is where all good research paper hypotheses begin, it is where we can leap to deeper insights and learn from each other. Without wonderment we remain stagnant, never to move farther ahead. The key is to not get trapped too firmly in our own biases, always looking for confirmation of said biases. This is a dark place where we all can fail to grow, and at times I am guilty as charged, I admit
When was the last time you climbed a tree? It has been quite a while for me. When was the last time your kid willingly turned off their phone, their tablet, the TV, the sports game, Netflix, and climbed a tree and sat in the swaying breeze and looked all around. When was the last time we sat in silence, that elusive place where wonderment lives, instead of reaching for our technology screen? We no longer sit in question, in mystery, in pain or discomfort, places where answers to the vexing questions sometimes get solved. We are scared of self discovery; so many are scared of living in their own silence. It can be painful and scary to sit in silence with our thoughts and with mystery. But, I think it is worth the time.
I often get asked what I do with all of my time? Well, clearly one can see just from this article, I sit or move in wonderment and so it seems to pair, in silence. I have become comfortable in solitude, I've learned that the answers to many things yet unanswered for me live out there in that vast land of silence and wonderment.
So perhaps the big question remains, are we killing our kids wonderment, and thus their genius, with technology? With their over-scheduled lives? Are we slowly killing us, and free thinking, and the search for the next generation of answers to the big questions ?
Wonderment requires quiet time, alone time, peace, no distractions. Try a day without a phone, a tablet, Netflix, music, podcasts, internet or even a book to distract you from the moment; it is unnerving at the start. But, it gets better, mysteries and questions will find you, and that is when things get good. Swim with them, bathe in them, wrestle with them. Try it soon, after all, the problem is, we merely think we have time.