A Sense of Wonder

So, I watched The Little Mermaid last night for the first time in a long time. It is so good. There were a couple of things that registered differently this time, and one of them was Ariel’s sense of wonder.

Fathoms Below by John Rowe

She is constantly looking for treasures of the human world – and she is delighted and amazed by everything she finds. But this sense of wonder is even stronger once she is transformed into a human herself.

For those who have seen the movie, you remember the scene where she and Eric are riding in the carriage? And he does a double-take because she’s upside down and hanging over the edge, fascinated by the movement of the horse’s hooves? And then at the Punch-n-Judy when she pulls the puppet off the man’s hand because she’s never seen it before? Or when she’s pulling Eric through the crowds, pointing at everything?

And you know what? Even though this is perfectly ordinary to everyone around her and no one else is reacting in any way like her…she doesn’t care. She’s excited by the beauty, the novelty, the things everyone finds ordinary or mundane and she allows herself to feel it, to be excited and entranced by it.

And to be honest, I think that’s powerful. How often do we walk through life with our eyes glazed over by the ordinary-ness of it all – when, in fact, maybe it’s not so ordinary. Maybe there is still wonder to be found in the everyday – in the blue of the sky on a Spring morning or the sunlight rippling on the river or the smell of freshly baked bread in the metro early in the morning. Or in a cup of coffee by the office window at the start of the day.

There is still wonder, even in the everyday. Sometimes, a fork is actually a dinglehopper.


Ah…adventure. I love that feeling. The feeling of the unknown that is to come the moment I step on the plane or set foot in another country.

Admittedly, I’ve been thinking about this more than usual because my seminar this semester is on the adventure novel. We’re into week three, and we started with a fantastic article by Georg Simmel called “The Adventure”. You can find the whole thing on the web, but there were a couple of points that really resonated:

We speak of adventure precisely when continuity with life is thus disregarded on principle – or rather when there is not even any need to disregard it, because we know from the beginning that we have to do with something alien, untouchable, out of the ordinary.

And then this:

No matter how much the adventure seems to rest on a differentiation within life, life as a whole may be perceived as an adventure. For this, one need neither be an adventurer nor undergo many adventures. To have such a remarkable attitude toward life, one must sense above its totality a higher unity, a super-life, as it were, whose relation to life parallels the relation of the immediate life totality itself to those particular experiences which we call adventures.

And the reason these points in particular resonated was that I saw myself in them. I’m a writer, I write of adventures. I feel adventure in my bones in this life. I need that adventure, that out-of-the-ordinary. And it could be as big as stepping on a plane or as small as heading to class or writing, knowing that this is leading me forward to…I know not what. But something. Though, as Bilbo learned, adventures are not all pony rides in May sunshine.

And yet.

Oh. And yet.

We’ve been to the Moon and back. We roam out among the stars. We dive to the depths of the sea. And yet we don’t know everything. We never will.

There is still Romance and Wonder and Adventure in the world, small and big. It’s what we do about it that matters. It is, after all, a dangerous business going out your door.

So if you’ll excuse me…