Astonishments   Leave a comment


Our astonishments are unique to each of us.  What amazes you, what fascinates, what astonishes? Making note of what these things are just might spark some joy, brain excitement, and compassion. Author Annie Dillard said, “You were made and set here to give voice to this, your own astonishment.”

What is it that astonishes you? Is it that a female emperor penguin has to catch the egg that she produces with her wings before it touches the ice and then place it on her feet to keep it from contact with the frozen ground? When she successfully does this both the mother and father penguin sing in unison while staring at the egg. Eventually, the male penguin will transfer the egg to the top of his feet where he will carefully walk around for months this way and does not eat during this time period. Astonishing! It might be as simple as seeing the roses growing in your yard or as complicated as studying the course of economics for the past 50 years and what decisions and events have led countries and peoples to where they are today.

Remember the first time you saw a cicada shell, or what we often refer to as a locust, attached to a tree. The distinct form of it with bulging eyes made it seem like an ancient creature made with papyrus paper, and maybe you found more and kept them in a cigar box. Then you saw a live cicada and pondered how that bigger body had gotten out of that stiff formed skin without breaking it, so you asked questions and found your answers, but kept your astonishment just the same. Maybe it is the first time you added shadowing to a drawing and watched the shape of lips form on paper.  Sharks and bears astonish with the power of their bodies. People never fail to astonish in good ways and bad. My nephew ran a 50 mile marathon, another young man had to cut a portion of his trapped arm off to survive a fall in a canyon. People jump into raging fires and lakes to save strangers. Discovering new ideas and new phenomenon makes the brain take notice. I remember my astonishment at age 10 as I waited for my best friend to finish her piano lesson; I looked through the piano teacher’s copy of Life Magazine. It had an article about two girls, Siamese twins, about my age. Astonished is an understatement as I studied the photographs of this unimaginable way of being and living. The bodies we are given to reside in and our attachment to them, be it love or hate, is an astonishing aspect of who we are and how that shapes our lives. Learning a few years later after watching the Christine Jorgenson story that some people feel that they were born in the wrong body and that they should be the opposite sex astonished me and made me want to understand the difficulties of a person who feels trapped this way.

When speaking to a man from Africa, we talked about how easy it is to spot Americans in England. He pointed to people walking and said that they were from Africa. I asked him how he knew and he told me that Africans walk slower than Europeans or Americans. It is hot where he is from and so they walk slowly due to the heat. People used to spending part of their year in cold weather hurry from place to place, add to this the busyness of life and we speed along even more.  Walking slower might cause one to notice more, think more, which might shape a person’s personality based on the landscape. This is an intriguing concept. How have the plains shaped your personality?

Our astonishments may cause us to choose professions based on what we loved as children.  Thinking about our play as children may help us reconnect with those astonishments and guide us to what occupations would excite and delight. Think about what you liked to do as a child. Watch children and it’s easy to pick out the organizer, the comedian, the boss, the artist etc.  The joy of showing a toddler new things is seeing their wonder at a butterfly, fireworks, salamanders, and then onto Legos, dinosaurs, skateboard skills. The child that is encouraged at building forts in the backyard becomes the architect satisfied in his job. Unfortunately, it does not always work that way. But here’s a good test that works for children and adults.  Notice a child or think of the time for yourself as an adult when you are doing something you enjoy and become so focused and absorbed in the activity that you lose track of time and your surroundings disappear. This happens when you are completely engaged in what you are doing. This could be decorating a room, cooking, writing, playing with a child, reading, listening to music, working on a car, sewing, painting a house, pulling weeds. Whatever it is that causes the rest of the world to dissolve around you.  Imagine parents and teachers discovering what that activity is for every child and building on their love of that activity, encouraging types of work that evolve from what they naturally love to do. Then there would truly be no child left behind.

“You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one.”

John Lennon

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Posted January 9, 2011 by strongjacksonpoet54 in Uncategorized

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