Wondering

Written by Jamie Fall

Are we still allowed to wonder? When I was young, I used to wonder about everything. I think most kids did. I would ask questions about how the world works. Sometimes I wanted to know the answer, but other times I think I just enjoyed the mystery of thinking about the many possibilities. For me, wondering was a form of creativity. I can fill in the possibilities for patterns we find in life, or mysteries in physics, or animals or people's behavior. Often it inspires further research, but sometimes it was just about wondering.

As we grow older, I think we are not so encouraged to wonder. We learn that science seems to have an answer for most things, and most of those creative possibilities you imagined are actually wrong. You can learn a lot from science, but sometimes I miss just wondering freely. 

Wondering As A Form Of Meditation 

Lately, I've enjoyed getting in touch with my curiosity again by going for walks in nature and allowing myself to wonder freely. Wandering and wondering, I guess! I encourage others to try this as well as I find it very spiritually freeing. Curiosity is an integral part of our souls. Here's an example of some of the wonderings I've had. It's not meant to be absolute conclusions but rather open points and thoughts to spur ideas. 

Time

I can walk under the giant oak trees, motionless and old. Maybe a hawk sails overhead. Little sparrows fluttering from limb to limb in a tree, picking at birdseed in my bird feeder. They're so fast and nimble! Some little ants are scurrying around the dropped birdseed on the ground, moving even faster than the birds. Watching them closely, I wonder how they move so amazingly quick and still know where they are going! I wonder, "How do other bugs like spiders move so precisely across the spider web with each leg landing exactly on a web strand?" I wonder, "How butterflies flutter around flowers so quickly yet so perfectly?" Later, watching them in slow motion videos, I can see their movements do not appear random. In fact, they look very graceful! Yet, they seem to move far too quickly to precisely coordinate their movements as they do at the normal speed. It seems like they should not have time to decide how to maneuver! Our standard answer would be that their brains simply "work faster," I guess. And perhaps they do. But what if instead, it was time that was working differently for them? Or at least, their perception of time. Could they be perceiving time differently than us? What if the smaller an animal is, the slower it perceives time? So the ant's quick movements to us are just "normal" speed for the ant, so he has plenty of time to decide which way to go. The little birds perhaps perceive time faster than the ant, though still slower than us, allowing them to swoop between branches quickly. Going out further, time-lapses of cities resemble a bustling colony of ants. Could this be how trees perceive us? Even plants can appear as interactive creatures when sped up. It seems an absurd idea at first, but the current view of time is nearly as unbelievable; that time changes according to one's speed. Might size have some relationship with time as well? Einstein did say time was relative to the viewer. Interestingly, we can even experience this change in time perception first-hand. Everyone has had the experience of feeling like time moved slower when they were young. Whereas now that we are older, it feels like the days just rush by. Could this be because we were smaller? The idea makes me laugh, but it's also kind of interesting! So, is this perceived speeding up of time as we grow older really just an illusion? Perhaps. But I've also heard from physicists that time itself is an illusion. In any case, it's worth wondering about for a while.

Light

As I walk across the grass, it stays motionless. Meanwhile, overhead some big white clouds change in shape, seemingly randomly. Other days a blustering storm blows across the sky. Random lightning strikes. All the while, the ground below stays mostly still.

Interestingly, all life walks a path somewhere between the realms of the motionless (relative to us) and orderly ground below, and the chaotic swirling air above. As if we are a sort of living-medium between the two. A living choice between order and chaos. And we do encompass both; we rest on the ground, and we are made of physical parts, though we do also require constant air for breath and life. Air energizes us in some ways. Is air naturally energetic? It's the lightest thing we experience, but what makes it so energetic and seemingly in constant motion? Sunlight plays a part in the motions of the winds through heating. Interesting that sunlight affects the lightest things. Light for lightweight items. But what about isolated air and other gases? Do they move too? It almost seems to me like air and gas has their own random energetic movement. Like it's alive and moves of its own choice. I thought I might be really reaching with this theory, but It turns out this was actually somewhat similar to the prevailing theory of the 1820s first proposed by Robert Brown. He first observed this random movement of tiny inanimate objects in crushed pollen. Peering through a microscope, he couldn't understand why the tiny particles in pollen were still jiggling around, seemingly randomly. The same observation can be made of smoke in a contained sealed capsule. The tiny shining bits of carbon in the smoke continued to move about randomly even when fully contained in a capsule away from outside interference. I personally find it interesting how light and carbon (the building blocks of life) are the things observed to wiggle randomly. Also interesting is that Robert Brown theorized that these tiny particles moved about randomly because they were somehow alive. This phenomenon was later termed Brownian Motion. His contributions to physics were highly regarded. However, as is often the case, science theories evolve and change as new people look at the evidence with a fresh perspective. Later theories hypothesized instead that these "random movements" of tiny particles came from the particles "bumping into" randomly moving atoms in the air (atoms were a new theory that at the time and required proof, which this theory helped solidify). This theory seems plausible, although, to me, this doesn't really solve the original question of why the particles moved randomly. It just adds an extra step. Because of this, my next question would be, "So, then why do the atoms move about randomly? Or are they alive?" Years later, extremely complex mathematics of quantum mechanics will explain why atoms move randomly. But personally, I do enjoy still wondering what would science be like today if Brown's hypothesis for explaining Brownian Motion had been proven correct? Would we view all objects at a molecular scale as possibly alive? Imagine the animal rights activists! How would we view mining? 

Life

Speaking of life, it is amazing to me how prevalent it is. You seem to find life at every scale and location. Forests, oceans, even deserts, all full of life, from the tall trees and little flowers, to elephants and birds, all the way down to tiny bugs under rocks. Even within life itself, there is more life. Our own bodies are further made from billions of cells that are each alive. These cells are made from molecules which are supposedly not alive, though how can we be sure? Perhaps because other materials are also made from these molecules. But perhaps that simply indicates these other materials could also be alive? There are, of course, different views on where life ends. Some may tell you there is no such thing as life, which is hardly a satisfying answer. Another may tell you everything is alive. Still, another view is that maybe life is located in the soul. But where is this soul? We've never been able to find the elusive soul or life energy force within living things at any scale, yet it's a theory many feel to be true. I believe consciousness is sort of a modern scientific way of describing the soul, but it basically remains as mysterious as ever. We can't see it, measure it, or detect it in any real way, yet we all know it to be real simply because we experience it all the time. So despite there being no traditional evidence for it, many people believe they are indeed alive simply because they experience it. What got me thinking, could experience be a better way of explaining something than logical proof? It would probably depend on the context of what you are explaining or what your objective is. A model of all the chemical components of a human can help us label the parts and compare them with other similar diagrams. But actually, being human can give us an entirely different understanding. Even if the diagram included an accurate "soul" particle, would it really be a better description? The experience itself is less descriptive but more informative. Certainly, diagrams and mathematical formulas have their place, but I wonder if it is always the most successful way to describe something. It just seems to me In some ways, any proof of life or the soul would always be inferior at describing it to that of actually experiencing life. 

Math

This idea of measuring life got me wondering about other ways that we show an understanding of something. I wonder why math is so often considered the definitive proof of understanding? It seems to me that an experience of something is a more accurate "understanding" of something. Yet, for most theories, the evidence is determined by the validity of a mathematical formula. An example I struggle with this is in studying physics. Personally, I struggle at times to feel I ever have an intuitive understanding of the mathematics in physics. Sure, I can eventually work through a math problem on paper, but I never seem to really "understand" it. Despite that, I can catch a football. Doesn't that action require an understanding of physics? Isn't my brain, on some level, computing mathematical equations super fast so that I can accurately predict the physics of the ball as it travels through the air in order for me to catch it? Then why can I not also simply understand the mathematics on paper? Perhaps there is more than one way of understanding "physics" beyond just math. Perhaps this is true for most things. I always found it hypocritical that students could be suspended from playing on the football team if they did poorly in their academics. What is football really if not applied physics? It sounds funny, but really it comes from a broader philosophy that there are many ways to understand a concept. Maybe life is too complicated to narrow it all down to a mathematical formula, a diagram, or a single definition of consciousness. 

Why Wonder?

So is there a point to all this wondering? There doesn't really have to be. I think it can be a wonderful meditative exercise in itself. It's nothing to be afraid of. There's no ego here. You don't need to be wrong or right. It could just be a safe place to be curious and play in your thoughts. Of course, if you do come to an interesting inspiration and decide to research it further, it could also lead you to some greater truths. 

Jesus said, "I am the Truth." What an interesting thing to say. He knew we are curious creatures trying to find answers. I think if there is a creator, then he made us curious for a reason. Our pursuits of truth are often beyond simple survival. They seem to lead us to a more spiritual understanding of this world. I believe that if you honestly continue to seek the truth, then you will eventually find it. So keep on wondering.

About the author: 

I'm Jamie Fall. I'm from the US. I studied fine arts in college and went back later for my teaching degree. I teach Art in China to elementary and high school students. My goal is to help my students learn to express their natural creativity and learn that they can use this creative ability to change the world positively.

I'm also an artist myself, working in various mediums, including oil paints, watercolor, digital, and others. I also enjoy game design and stories. I believe you can create art through any medium that expresses yourself creatively. For me, often, the ideas behind the art are the most important part. I've always been interested in spirituality and philosophy, as well as science and fictional stories. Oftentimes my art reflects these ideas in abstract ways. More recently, I've tried to do more formal writing on some of these ideas. I don't claim to be an expert on most of the spiritual or scientific topics I write about. Rather, I consider them more of a creative exercise in thinking. Like a journey through ideas and wondering that hopefully leads us closer to the truth. I hope you can find some inspiration in my thoughts that helps you on your own spiritual journey. 

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