Dinner and Mystery

Every once in a while, we host a Dinner And...
The idea is simple - host a small group to discuss a certain topic or idea with collected quotations as a guide while sharing a meal together around a table.  Just last month, we hosted Dinner and Mystery, chatting with special friends about engaging the Unknown and why it is important, about letting ourselves be taken by Wonder and what that does for us.
Now, Mystery and Wonder are some of my very favorite topics and have are becoming the foundation of my seeing.  Indeed, it is the reason for the name of this blog.  There is much to say about these topics, but I will let the sampling of quotes that I found lead to you wonder about mystery better than I can.  But if I can add just a little observation, I'll point out that the many wise words on wonder so often point to two things to help nurture it in your life - nature and children.  What nurtures a sense of awe in you?

 
 
 
 
 
 

“Our investigation indicates that awe, although often fleeting and hard to describe, serves a vital social function. By diminishing the emphasis on the individual self, awe may encourage people to forgo strict self-interest to improve the welfare of others. When experiencing awe, you may not, egocentrically speaking, feel like you're at the center of the world anymore. By shifting attention toward larger entities and diminishing the emphasis on the individual self, we reasoned that awe would trigger tendencies to engage in prosocial behaviors that may be costly for you but that benefit and help others.

Across all these different elicitors of awe, we found the same sorts of effects—people felt smaller, less self-important, and behaved in a more prosocial fashion. Might awe cause people to become more invested in the greater good, giving more to charity, volunteering to help others, or doing more to lessen their impact on the environment? Our research would suggest that the answer is yes.”

-Paul Piff, University of California; study on Awe, the Small Self, and Prosocial Behavior

Grand Canyon

Continuing on our roadtrip across Southwest America, we stopped in Flagstaff, AZ for a few nights and explored the surrounding area.  The most obvious attraction to visit was the Grand Canyon - one of the world's most awe-inspiring natural sights.  Although we only dedicated one day to this Wonder of the World, it would be time well-spent to return and explore it at leisure.

Words cannot do the Grand Canyon justice, nor can my photos, but I do hope they can nudge you to plan a trip for yourself, stand at the rim of magnitude, and allow yourself to be filled with awe.

Renewing the sense of wonder

I've recently been reading a couple of books about how to share nature with children and they have made me realize how I've been a bit starved myself of the wonder Mother Nature instills in me. I notice in myself the desire to be WOWed by Nature. I want her to show me something great and new, something spectacular; I'm like a child who clings to her mother claiming she's bored and demands to be entertained even though I'm surrounded by toys. Maybe reading these books has simply brought out the child within.

Last night I lay in my hammock gazing up at the sky, hoping to see the Perseid meteor shower, but to no avail - likely due to Kampala's light pollution. I wasn't shown the spectacle I wanted, but soon, the waxing moon and the few stars that shown through became enough and that wonder began to return.

Today, I turned my attention to the backyard. I took my camera to test out some macro lens extenders and soon became engulfed in common nature - the colors of leaves, the texture of a mushroom, bugs piddling about. And soon the common didn't feel so common anymore. I watched ants in a twig carry eggs back and forth and a bug that I had never seen before landed on my shoulder. I spotted a small spiders web and then noticed its owner tucked under a blade of grass, waiting for the right visitor.

From the great cosmos to life in the backyard, my sense of wonder has been renewed in the last 24 hours - not because I was shown anything new and incredible, but because, as Aldous Huxley reminds us, "discovery consists not in seeking new landscapes, but in having new eyes."

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Books I recommend about sharing nature with children: 

The Sense of Wonder by Rachel Carson (Truly a gem of a book!)

Vitamin N: The essential guide to a nature-rich life by Richard Louv