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Aesthetics and a Sense of Wonder

by Ruth A. Wilson
May/June 2010
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Article Link: http://exchangepress.com/article/aesthetics-and-a-sense-of-wonder/5019324/

Rachel Carson (1956) �" scientist, writer, and environmentalist �" tells us that “A child’s world is fresh and new and beautiful, full of wonder and excitement” (p. 42). Many of us have heard and been inspired by these words, but may not have a clear idea about what wonder really is. This isn’t surprising, because wonder in different contexts can mean different things. As used by Carson, wonder refers to a “clear-eyed vision,” a “true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring” (p. 42). Wonder in this context is something we feel (an emotion), but also a ‘way of knowing’ based on intuition or natural instinct.

Wonder as an emotion

Emotions are what give zest to life, and quality and meaning to our existence. Some might say that emotions are what make life worth living. Yet some emotions (such as anger, jealousy, disgust, and sadness) may leave us feeling miserable. Wonder is different; it is an emotion which uplifts and inspires. We can count on wonder to enrich and ennoble our lives. As Carson (1956) says, wonder can serve “as an unfailing antidote against the boredom and disenchantments of later years, the ­sterile preoccupation with things that are artificial, the alienation from ...

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