In Oregon, where I was living in a cabin in the forest, I took a new road. That day, I took a right where before I had gone straight. As I drove down this new-to-me road, I couldn’t help but notice the newness, the way it sparkled deeply into my brain. The way the light came through these particular trees, the way they lined the road like the nave of a 10 mile long cathedral. As when you get in a new car, all the senses come together create a “new-car-smell”, similarly this road had a smell, a beautiful new-road-smell. And it filled me with wonder.
In my experience, wonder is the ultimate soul-food. As I write these words tears are filling my eyes. When I think of the world, this beautiful inexplicable world, wonder fills me up powerfully. It leaks out my eyes, drips down my cheeks. For every inch you look at, you could spend a lifetime in wonder at the marvels it contains. A single leaf has the power to take sunlight and change it into molecules that feed a tree. Follow the thread of any single thing like a leaf and you will find an infinite tapestry, woven so intricately and perfectly, it cannot help but overwhelm you with wonder.
I used to think that knowledge was useful to collect in the form of facts – pieces of information I could obtain and then I would have them to dole out in appropriate circumstances. And for sure that’s a useful aspect of knowledge. But now I think about science, knowledge and knowledge-seeking more as an expression of infinite curiosity to discover more and more of what is around us, and the effect for me is to illuminate more and more wonder.
Yesterday I left San Francisco, and today I arrived in Boulder, Colorado. I drove 1,300 miles of all new road. Hours crossing the wildlands of Wyoming where the wind blows ceaselessly across the endlessly brown plains. Salt Lake City. The high desert of Nevada. My soul fed by the constant stream of wonder I experienced, swimming deeply in the river of new landscape pouring past me. It’s like the joy of putting your head face-up under the stream of the shower, with the sunlight beaming through the window, lighting up each droplet as it caresses your face in a never-ending cascade.
In living life by following the signal of caring how I feel, I now deeply notice these signals. Something feels good, helpful, healthy, so I do it more. I haven’t by any means mastered this in all areas yet, but I continue to practice it. Doing this seems to feed my brain. It feeds it with wonder primarily. Wonder at the light and the colors, at the people that toiled and struggled to build this road, at the different landscapes that appear with each crest of a hill, at the intensity of life that teems everywhere no matter how desolate or different the landscape appears to the version of me that hasn’t seen it yet.
There is absolutely a joy in regularity, in routine. But there is a deep joy and wonder to be experienced in taking a new road and basking in the endless stream of wonder of newness. It doesn’t need to be a 1,300 mile journey (although this can be done in a weekend if you want!) – it can simply be a different way to the office, or a new destination out to a nearby park at the weekend. Let yourself rediscover experiencing for yourself the delight of a child who hasn’t seen it all before, and hence has a far better perspective on what is actually all around us if we let ourselves see it.