A Quick Self-Riposte

This is pointed at my previous post on Wonder in the modern age.

Dear Me,

You seem to have not considered several important things in your somewhat eloquent, if haughty, essay on the nature of Wonder in the modern world. I find that something makes your argument so very vexatious and for this reason I feel the need to riposte with respect, simply because I disagree.

You must forgive my somewhat pertinent tone, but you know how wrong you may be and how limited my time is. You bemoan the loss of that which humanity may never have had, mourning for something that never died because it may not even have existed. Most humans do not have a fascination in their immediate environment because that is ordinary. It is too familiar. What purpose, evolutionarily speaking, would such a fascination serve? For what reason would that trait be worthy of survival? The fact that we limit ourselves to fascination and wonder in the new and in those moments of rare elation is more valuable to us because we can then get on with the real purpose of life: to ensure it continues.

Though you complain about the lack of appreciation modern generations have for this world of ours, let me remind you that this may be precisely what spurs us on as a species. Think in larger timescales my good man. What good would it have been if throughout history we said to ourselves: “everything is great, everything is good?” For what reason would we then have to strive for a better future? What would be our whip to improve the lot of everyone, to progress as a society if we simply accepted that all is well? We may need to be unhappy or malcontent with our current situation because that malaise drives us forward. You appear to have neglected that idea in your post and the whole article suffers as a result.

I believe wonder should be limited purely to that which is real. Your section on religious ceremonies and mythology, where you question the superiority of scientific knowledge, is flawed because you seem to suggest that is okay to be awe inspired by the false, the unprovable and the non-rational. Good Lord, man! What caused such a change of heart in your normally sceptical mind? What great cataclysm has happened in your own life that allowed you to accept that such poor fantasy is on equal footing with the most magnificent achievements of science? That knowledge that we have now gained has been built upon by thousands of the smartest people over hundreds of years – and do you know what allowed that to happen? Let me answer that for you: the collapse of those institutionalised fantasies’ grip on the advancement of knowledge; the moment when the powers that be, those who claimed divine right to suppress alternative theories (especially those of greater veracity that would undermine the claims of the fantastic). Those fantasies that you seem to have given some sort of credence to could have been made up by anyone anywhere. There is certainly grandeur in some of the more persistent ones, but just because a story has the ability to self-replicate beyond all control does not mean that is deserving of being put on equal footing with the theories that help us understand the very real nature of the reality that we are in. Yes, many of these fantasies inspired greater feelings of wonder in the great unwashed than modern science does, but dare to convince me that such fantasy have contributed more to the advancement of the human race – regardless of their ability to inspire.

Instead of whining about the loss of wonder in the technology around us, let me posit an alternative that you seem not to have considered in your lengthy article. It is this: people should find wonder in something because it deserves it. My hand does not deserve to high feelings of wonder because it does not have the following characteristics: rarity or uniqueness. Many people have hands. So do I. It is not special, nor is it uncommon. Once we understand something, we need not lose interest in it as you seem to suggest people do – we need to find something special in it and that is something that only happens infrequently. You pointed to the iPod as an example of people just accepting wondrous technology, yet you seem to have ignored the fact that when the iPod was new people found wonder within it. Again, not every technological advance inspires this feeling and this may be a good thing because then we, humanity, have to work harder to find that new thing that will give us the same feeling again- though it may be several years later.

Look to the future, my good man. There you will find the wonder you yearn for. A new enlightenment awaits us somewhere down the line, have patience and it will come. Wonder is rare and it is special, but is always there for those who seek it.

Yours truly,

Yourself

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