HomeArticleHow To Live In Wonder

How To Live In Wonder

It’s so easy, as the years wind on, to sink into adult-mind. To get crusty and stagnant in our knowing. To lose our sense of wonder.

Wonder comes naturally to a very small child. To fresh eyes, eyes whose vision hasn’t been obscured the cataracts of knowing, the cataracts of “I know what that is, that’s just a flower, I’ve seen lots of those,” wonder is the natural response to the experience of perception on this unfathomably beautiful planet of ours.

But to victims of adult-mind this experience has been lost. Eyes that have been ravaged by adult-mind scan past a million tiny miracles every single day while attention is turned toward stale, repetitive stories in the head about a character called “me” and its various relationships with life.

Even when attention does seem to move outward, adult-mind doesn’t actually perceive life as it really is, life in its explosive majesty. What’s experienced are labels, conceptual constructs placed overtop all the various aspects of this radiant indivisible chaos for linguistic and conversational purposes. If by some lucky happenstance we cast our gaze upon the mysterious cluster of experiences we’ve labeled “tree”, for example, we tend to mostly see that label and all the concepts we’ve come to associate with it, instead of its utterly ineffable wonderment.

This fixation on mental constructs causes us to lead dull, habitual lives devoid of awe, devoid of wonder. The way interest and attention remains wrapped up in lifeless labels and predictable thought patterns keeps us from elevating our minds into the open space where inspiration, spontaneity and agility become possible. It makes us dull, unhappy, rigid, and stupid.

And it’s absolutely wild that that’s the norm for the human condition, because even by the stuffy logic of the plodding adult-mind, it’s an entirely irrational position to hold.

Our own mundane rationality tells us that the world is not as the mental narrator describes it. Zoom the camera out a bit and you see we are the tiniest specks within an incomprehensibly vast universe whose depths we haven’t even scratched the surface of, making an immediately recognizable lie of the significance with which we imbue our mental thought stories. Zoom the camera in and we see that all the “things” to which we affix labels can’t be said to exist with any independent reality at all; it’s just a cloud of swirling, loosely associated particles with no clear boundaries between it and its surroundings, and this includes the very body/brain organism which we self-assuredly refer to as “me”.

Zoom the camera in even further to the level of quantum physics and reality becomes even further removed from how it’s depicted in our mental narratives. The whole thing’s a mystery from top to bottom; at best science can describe how some aspects of matter tend to behave, but science can’t tell you why matter exists, or even what matter fundamentally is.

Then consider how even our senses and cognitive processing of their input is extremely limited. The human eye only perceives about 0.0035 percent of the electromagnetic spectrum. Frequencies outside the 20 Hz to 20 kHz range are completely inaudible to the human ear. Of the information that our extremely limited senses can perceive, our unconscious brain is able to take in and process about 11 million pieces of data per second, of which our conscious mind is able to process only 40 pieces.

And, of course, we still don’t know what the deal is with consciousness itself. The single most significant aspect of human experience, by an infinitely massive margin, is the fact that experience is experienced by any consciousness at all. Science knows hardly anything about this phenomenon or its origins, so it generally gets treated as an irrelevant back burner issue instead of the central mystery of our entire existence. The near-entirety of scientific endeavor completely ignores the very consciousness in which it appears.

Science, at least at this point in its development, is a crude crayon drawing of reality by a toddler who can barely hold the crayon.

And these are just a few of the known unknowns, which in turn are surely dwarfed by the unknown unknowns. What we know we don’t know is probably an itty bitty dot next to yawning chasm of what we don’t know we don’t know.

So we can see just with our mundane adult-mind logic that the knowing which adult-mind takes for granted that it has about reality is entirely beyond its grasp. The “I know what that is, this is this and that is that” labeling and the dusty old How It Is narratives which form the foundation of the adult-mind cognitive life are, to put it charitably, a joke.

And why should it be otherwise? As Terence McKenna put it, where is it writ in adamantine that talking monkeys should be able to understand the universe?

So wonder is not only the most enjoyable response to the human adventure, it’s also the most reasonable.

So how to get there? I guess I’d be kind of a dick if I didn’t conclude with an answer to that question.

People fail to live their lives in awe, wonder, delight and deep peace for the same reason people keep consenting to abusive governments: our lives are ruled by narrative. And the solution to both is the same: intense curiosity about what’s going on underneath the narratives.

The word “wonder” has a few different definitions, one of which is “to be filled with admiration, amazement, or awe, marvel,” and another is “to speculate curiously or be curious about; be curious to know.”

And at first glance these do seem like two completely different notions. One seems to describe a state that somebody experiences, while the other is used to express curiosity about a question, like “I wonder if it will rain?”

But really they’re both pointing to the exact same experience: the experience of not knowing. You wonder if it will rain because, in that moment, you do not know. If you want to, you can take this not-knowing, this wondering, and use it to undo all of your adult-mind habits of perception and cognition, just by actively wondering about them.

Make a constant practice of getting curious about all of the aspects of your experience. Not with the intention of receiving any adult-mind narrative answers, but with the curiosity of a talking monkey who has no ability to understand the universe.

Sea otters are renowned for their playful curiosity. When a sea otter goes and checks out a scuba diver, they’re not doing it with the intention of coming away with any conclusions. No sea otter has ever had the thought, “Ah yes, that’s a human scuba diver wearing a Henderson Thermoprene wetsuit with an 80 CF aluminum dive cylinder.” If a sea otter thinks anything, the closest English translation of its mental flickerings during such curious investigations is probably something like, “Ooh!”

In that simple, childlike “Ooh!” lies the path out of adult-mind. Just playfully explore your sensory input as it shows up, playfully explore your thoughts as they appear, explore the source and perception of those thoughts, explore your sense of yourself, explore your consciousness, not with the intention of getting any answers, but simply to marvel. To wonder. To “Ooh!”

By continually introducing the immediate experience of not-knowing to your operating system, you will undo the stale old perceptual and cognitive habits of the adult-mind that thinks it knows, that thinks it has seen it all, that it has seen any of this before. It’s a skill like any other, and as you improve with practice you will get better at meeting everything for the first time.

Because, in a very real sense, you are meeting everything for the first time. You cannot step into the same river twice. Everything you meet and everyone you meet is in a constant state of change, and so are you. So it makes sense for such encounters to take place in a way that reflects this fact.

And the good news is you can still learn new things, to whatever extent they are useful to you. If anything learning becomes easier, because new information isn’t obstructed by rigid mindsets, old ideas and obsolete cognitive habits. You just hold your “knowledge” lightly and in an open palm, letting your playful sea otter curiosity poke and examine it instead of grasping it and turning it into a rigid doctrine.

So really there’s every reason to begin the exploration of wonder, and no good reason not to. Let wonder guide your entire experience. Let it shape you. Let it become your default position. Let it become your way of life.

___________________________

New book: Notes From The Edge Of The Narrative Matrix.

The best way to get around the internet censors and make sure you see the stuff I publish is to subscribe to the mailing list for at  or on Substack, which will get you an email notification for everything I publish. My work is , so if you enjoyed this piece please consider sharing it around, liking me on , following my antics on , or throwing some money into my tip jar on Ko-fi or . If you want to read more you can buy my books. For more info on who I am, where I stand, and what I’m trying to do with this platform, . Everyone, racist platforms excluded,  to republish, use or translate any part of this work (or anything else I’ve written) in any way they like free of charge.

Bitcoin donations:1Ac7PCQXoQoLA9Sh8fhAgiU3PHA2EX5Zm2

Liked it? Take a second to support Caitlin Johnstone on Patreon!

Latest comments

  • Ahhhh . . . . to the ” Ohh ! “

  • “Above all we have to go beyond words and images and concepts. No imaginative vision or conceptual framework is adequate to the great reality.”
    —Bede Griffiths

  • Great advice! Yes, like we know, you can’t dissect a Mockingbird to try to understand the beauty of it’s song… just enjoy the wonder!

  • Oh I just wanna remind people about something, regarding the unknown. Because it’s about betrayal, which this world has an enormous amount of.

    Donald Rumsfeld mentioned the “known known, known unknown and unknown unknown”.

    But, there are 4 permutations. So he omitted something.

    What did he omit? The unknown known. That thing, factor or element that is concealed, or intentionally “forgotten”. That thing you might’ve known to be true, but you didn’t like it or the implications.

    • Oh and here’s a reminder, possibly the most important shit Jeff Goldblum’s ever said. And VERY relevant to modernity.

  • A person exits a cave and sees the light for the first time, a glorious place full of wonder, a veritable Eden. Birdsong, trees, butterflies, flowers, deer and grasses. A seemingly harmonious environment. The bewildered person, somewhat frightened by these unknown elements, proceeds to build a new kind of shelter, but still a cave. While somewhat cluelessly gathering pieces for the cave , the person has a negative reaction to some aspects of the environment. Of course, the person deems that an offense or attack. As the person haphazardly finishes putting together the new cave, a great sense of comfort and achievement overwhelms the person, who retreats into his new sheltering pride. The person reflects about this new environment and the untoward attacks, though of course not fully understanding why that happened. But it mattered not…

    A few days later, another person exits the cave, wanders about similarly aimlessly, but is eventually encountered by the first person. Their sense of similarity and familiarity quickly befriends them. And the first person tells the other of his new improved cave and the dangers of the mysterious attacks out there, while the second tells the first there are more people in the original cave. So, they plot to minimize their dangers, in doing so, they agree they will need larger numbers, as the environment is vast and the dangers could lurk anywhere…so they do some of that math. And of course, larger numbers means more caves would be necessary.

    Some time passes and many caves are built while others have joined. Their ranks grow, while it is decreed that their most important mental task would be thinking of even larger numbers. This they do, as a society, habitually and almost religiously. In constructing their new caveshelters, the environment seemingly gets more hostile, which causes even more fear and uncertainty for the already bewildered cavedwellers. Soon, it is decided that simply constructing caveshelters would not be good enough, they are after all, in some kind of war with the increased hostility.

    They decide that aspects of the environment should be attacked more proactively, not simply for constructing caveshelters. Much of the surrounding environment is thus cleared, repurposed or destroyed and the first lawn is invented. Pretty soon, they start playing golf.

    Unfortunately, while they were sitting in their caveshelters, occasionally exiting to play golf on their sterile societal lawn…the environment’s hostility increased beyond their comprehension, but it was out of sight and out of mind. Though having their even larger numbers, they are faced with a dilemma, their resources are depleted and they are unable to progress through the hostile surrounds to gather new resources.

    Of course, the caveshelter dwellers did not think of sustaining their environment for resources as it seemed overwhelmingly vast…and while it is, it is now too hostile for them to conquer. Thus, they collectively retreat to comfort of their original cave and their world is lost.

    I have a few alternative versions of that…but hey, I can’t remember so well. I am sitting in a caveshelter, so.

  • Thanks Caitlin.

  • Thanks Caitlin.
    The problem being that we look with our minds instead of or hearts.
    The heart has no agenda.
    It pumps away, non stop (in most of us), for sixty, seventy, eighty, ninety or even a hundred years, without complaint.
    It’s bloody awesome.
    It only requires one thing to fill it.
    Love.
    Utterly AMAZING isn’t it?
    Let your mind play it’s silly games.
    Or be still.
    Let your heart just BE.

    • Dunno about you, but my heart complains all the time…

      • Access to Supreme Worlds: The awakening within, inherently possessing the faculty to directly connect to the Divine world(s). The existence of a special human ability to create this connection. The ability to connect and explore all levels of reality; co-penetrate the human with the divine; to bond to all reality and experience a unique inner awakening.

        • You mean division by zero? Coz I’ve been noticing what my heart complaints are related to over the past 10 years or so, and it is quite consistently associated with that big bright light and geological effects.

          Strangely, I linked an album named Iotunn – Access All Worlds very recently (on another site), and I was reminded of that by your words there.

          And here, some totally unrelated music spam:

  • Thank you, Caitlin, for your words of wisdom and inspiration.

  • “Science knows hardly anything about this phenomenon [consciousness] or its origins, so it generally gets treated as an irrelevant back burner issue instead of the central mystery of our entire existence.”

    I worked in a neurophysiology lab for a while, and I found understanding consciousness was a prime motivation for many scientists involved, even if it didn’t appear on their grant applications and so.

    As for scientists and wonder, Einstein said, “The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and science.”
    https://www.forbes.com/quotes/190/
    Similarly, from Feynman, “The science knowledge only adds to the excitement, the mystery and the awe of a flower.”
    https://fs.blog/2011/10/richard-feynman-on-beauty/
    (Both links give fuller versions than my brief quotes.)

    That said, while we place labels “overtop all the various aspects of this radiant indivisible chaos for linguistic and conversational purposes,” they’re hardly the only reasons. Cats experience much the same radiant chaos as we do, but they label things dog, rat, comfortable, nasty, etc. Plants and bacteria sort their environment into up/down, hot/cold and light/dark, and act accordingly. Seeing the world anew has its merits, but labels help us survive!

    • You’re a serve hive whore?

      I consider it a pointless exercise. But that’s just me.

      • Not believing in a Creator, I’m awed by the magnificent pointlessness of it all. It just is. Now that we’re here and part of it, we make of it what we will.

        • Well, I’m just saying, the world has an enormous amount of stupid bullshit (caused by those who made of it what they willed, which is a shithole) I can’t be ignorant of.

          And though I’m fiercely against religion, I find it ridiculous to assume no creator, so at best I can identify as agnostic. As in, I know stuff was created, somehow.

          Aside from that, having experienced enormous amounts of “signs” and “synchs”, to the point sometimes of being nauseating…is kinda hard to ignore.

          But yeah, survival in this world? I consider it meaningless, and mostly even degenerate, if I take into account what it constitutes, with the world’s “path” into the abyss.

          • I’m not saying cats, plants or bacteria find meaning in their lives through labelling their sensory input – though who knows, perhaps they do – just that doing so enables them to live. Experiencing the world as radiant indivisible chaos won’t help them decide what to eat and what to avoid.

          • Well, those are minute aspects of a whole, imo.

            Scale somewhat dictating the “actions” or existential experience. The “creator” creating and changing through what I deem division by zero.

            I certainly don’t believe there is anything such as “chaos”, any perceived “chaos” is merely an inability to account.

            Like when you “observe” the sun, scientifically, with a tiny little fragment made from earth, which happens to be powered by the sun and enabled that. But you have brainfarts and perhaps intentional bias, aside from say, observational errors due to limitations of the equipment.

            I think that’s kinda funny shit with “science”. It’s like a cell in your body, using a tiny fraction of a cell, to look outside at what created the body when it cannot even potentially fathom a fraction of the body.

            • The magic is that we can begin to fathom ourselves and our universe.

  • Ah, the Buddha Ms Caitlin once again speaks words of wisdom and understanding!

  • This is beautiful. I’m in awe. Ooh!
    Thank you so much for yet another wonderful post.

  • “And, of course, we still don’t know what the deal is with consciousness” – “the central mystery of our entire existence.” If one cannot begin to answer the assertion, it would be wise to set aside (the choice of) atheism as an enlightened path (at least) until all avenues of possible awakenings have been exhausted. Does one want a “Big Bang” of scattered nothingness, or a “Eureka!” of infinite awareness?
    https://seaclearly.com/2009/11/25/does-god-exist-the-good-news/

    • Well said. I prefer the optomistic option of infinite awareness.

  • Beautiful piece caitlin … Intense curiosity on what lies beneath the narrative is to wonder.
    Just like the truth seeing sunglasses in the movie ‘they live’..

    • I’ve never even watched that, but I’m intimately familiar with it.

      It is a bit ironic that they would need sunglasses to see truth, as this sort of worldwide obsession or agenda of blocking the sun is the dumbest and most futile thing the human species can do. Geoengineering, excessive clothing, sunblocks, etc…

      And then, they wonder why the get colds/flus/RTIs in winter, like clockwork, when that sunlight is essential. And they fall for lies of viruses, ignoring the obvious. That no matter how much exposure to those constructed, misattributed, conflated viruses, they never get immunity to those RTIs, because you can’t be immune to excess toxicity or deficiency (like vitamin D in winter, coz you stayed inside a bit much).

      I recommend reading this, if you are unfamiliar with the PRS cycle and the medical system fraud:
      https://pastebin.com/rsSD9Ab8

      They live? I doubt it.

      • “blocking the sun is the dumbest and most futile thing the human species can do”
        Blocking the sun through geoengineering won’t look dumb or futile if we don’t stop making climate change worse pretty soon.

        • Yo! We need to save the world from climate change fast.
          What’s the sense of having billionaires if they can’t enjoy blue skies, clean water, and all the beauty of the planet.
          Can’t understand why more folks aren’t on board for saving the world for the 0,01%?
          Ha!

  • Every Garden Design must have a mission statement. What you want for and from your Garden.

    Every Garden Design begins inside your home.

    A Garden Designer for decades, the shortest version of my own mission statement has not wavered, I want to look out my windows, any time of day, and think, “OH WOW.”

    What a wonderful life this is providing.

    Kept overlaying Coleridge while reading this. And, of course, the Bible.

    Garden & Be Well, Tara

    A recent article about Coleridge I think you’ll enjoy, https://aeon.co/essays/the-spectacular-originality-of-coleridges-theory-of-ideas?utm_source=Aeon+Newsletter&utm_campaign=bb8fdcd8fe-EMAIL_CAMPAIGN_2021_04_19_02_03&utm_medium=email&utm_term=0_411a82e59d-bb8fdcd8fe-69349533 .

    • Coleridge’s wonderful opium foray …. I wonder what his thoughts would be on the wholesale funding from this plant to control people and fund armed conflicts with and help families become President of a nation

    • I used to put in quite a bit of effort into growing things, but like everything, that idea died when I recognized I’m not supported. And I am REALLY not in a good state, so I kinda just…don’t bother anymore.

      And I don’t mean to be negative or put others off of gardening, coz planting things would be about the first thing I’d recommend or concern myself with , had I any hope or whatever, but with my personal circumstance it feels entirely meaningless.

  • The wonder of the Andes – of Iran – of the Caucasus !
    The wonder is entirely hidden from us – unless we investigate !

    Our minds have been corrupted with the narrative and discovery becomes impossible in the every day GRIND !

    • Yes the wonder of Baluchistan

  • Doesn’t Abraham J. Heschel remind you of Assange? Let’s all think of Assange for a moment, every day.

leave a comment