To benefit from wonder, make sure you’ve got the genuine kind

To benefit from wonder, make sure you’ve got the genuine kind

Not surprisingly, I talk and write a lot about happiness.

But within the domain of Positive Psychology, happiness is ONLY ONE of many positive emotions.

And all the positive emotions, not to mention the negative or unpleasant ones, deserve to be valued and appreciated in their own right.

Which is why, today, I’m bringing you this article about wonder and awe, very important positive emotions that related to happiness and thriving and flourishing …

via Psyche by Lisa Sideris

Wonder is generally thought to be a good thing. We cultivate it in young children and commend it in our greatest scientists. Curiosity and awe, each representing distinct facets of wonder, inspire public enthusiasm for science and are integral to the advancement of knowledge. Yet, for all the praise it garners, wonder has long been met with vocal detractors.

Theologians have sometimes taken a jaundiced view of wonder expressed as curiosity, condemning its tendency to trespass into idle or forbidden knowledge. Augustine, the 5th-century theologian whose views on curiosity dominated European thought for several centuries, considered it a vainglorious vice that puffs one up with pride. Curiosity was a perversion of the intellectual appetite owing to its acquisitive, grasping impulse. While it reliably returns new knowledge, curiosity’s reach always exceeds its possessive grasp, consigning the wonderer to eternal dissatisfaction. Oddly, curiosity’s quest for knowledge is both closed and infinite – narrowly circumscribed by its fixation on a given object, yet interminable because its appetite cannot be sated. For Augustine, prideful curiosity stood in the way of virtuous, open-ended enquiry into all things, including the relationship of all things to God. In short, curiosity could distract the wonderer from God, while making a god of oneself.

Philosophers have expressed ambivalence toward wonder as well. In the 17th century, Francis Bacon disparaged wonder as a form of broken knowledge, ‘nothing else but contemplation broken off, or losing itself’. Rather than convey the wonderer toward explanation, excessive wonder can engender stupefaction, prolonging instead of curing the conditions of ignorance that give rise to enquiry. Concerns about the soporific quality of wonder – its power to induce open-mouthed astonishment – hint at the quality of awe that sometimes infuses wonder. If curiosity can be faulted for its blinkered pursuit of solutions to puzzles, an excess of wonder can stall the mind, leading enquiry nowhere at all. Awestruck, gaping wonder might be admissible, Bacon believed, when contemplating the unparalleled greatness of God, whose mysteries science can never fully fathom. But it was at best unbecoming, and at worst a serious liability, for the scientist.

These misgivings go against a widespread and commonsense perception that wonder has a positive role to play in the realm of science and in the daily lives of regular people, religious or otherwise. Today, wonder is often invoked as if its meaning were self-evident, or self-evidently good. The commonsense view of wonder’s goodness has merit. But in order to gauge its value, we must get clearer on what wonder is, and for whom or what it might be good. This is no simple task, for our inherited notions of wonder have been shaped by centuries of theological and scientific debate about licit and illicit forms of knowledge, and the nature of the division of labour between science and religion. Moreover, ‘wonder’ connotes vastly different things to different people. As indicated by references to small children and professional scientists as the purported standard-bearers of wonder, descriptions of wonder run the gamut from experiences of spontaneous, innocent delight to highly trained habits of thought. Adding to wonder’s complexity, as we have already seen, is its entanglement with cognate terms such as curiosity and awe…

… keep reading the full & original article HERE