I recently got to see author Ravi Zacharias speak. I hadn’t ever heard of him before the event, but he sparked my attention during the question-and-answer segment following the talk when he addressed the meaning of life. He posited that there are four necessary components to find meaning in life: truth, love, security and wonder.
If you stood in the middle of White Plaza and tried to ask 100 students on campus where they look to find meaning in life, the nine or 10 students willing to stop and respond would probably include the first three on their list: truth, love and security. But wonder? You may be hard-pressed to find that answer. Is having wonder in life necessary for meaning? And if so, why is it so underappreciated?
I recently restarted watching wrestling. And not Olympic-style, grapple, counter, mat wrestling. I mean chokeslam-through-a-table, steel-chair-to-the-face-of-a-7-foot-300-pound-gimmick, staged professional wrestling. I used to watch it every week growing up, and I dreamt of becoming a professional wrestler one day, despite possessing the size and shape of a meerkat.
I started watching again because of a new straightedge wrestler named CM Punk, and, let me just say, the 10 years between watching as a 10-year-old and watching it now has made a huge difference. I always knew it was fake, but not this fake. If you’ve never experienced the joy and wonder that is professional wrestling, you should stop reading this right now and hop on YouTube. The personalities are flat, the feuds are more scripted than soap operas and the actual wrestling is hit or miss. And by “hit or miss,” I mean whether the person gets a hit or misses, the other guy falls over. It’s incredible.
But twice a week for two hours, stadiums and convention centers are filled with fans cheering, booing and paying to see grown men in tights fake fight. And it’s because of the sense of wonder this fake world holds. Anything can happen. In this world, the good guy doesn’t always win, the rules aren’t always followed and the little guy can sometimes overcome the giant. Even though they are completely aware it is fake, thousands of people every week look to professional wrestling to divorce themselves from their world of mundane routine.
And this is the type of wonder I think Ravi Zacharias was referring to as necessary for finding meaning in life. Not professional wrestling specifically, but a wonder found from seeing the everyday world around us with astonishment, without jaded or dulled hearts. It is the appreciation for things regardless of their inevitability or routine. It is the hope that anything, no matter how small and insignificant, can become great. It is the excitement that anything and everything can happen.
And I think the busy college world is detrimental to this sense of wonder. In order to succeed as a college kid, you need to have your world figured out so you can best take advantage of it. The freedom of time is reduced to hourly calendar spots within a day that must be filled as efficiently as possible. Passions and longings simply become weekly routines of going through the motions. Actions and choices become the habitual cause-and-effect decision that reaps the most effective benefits. Emotions and imagination are dismissed for figures and graphs, and questions of “why?” and “what if?” are replaced by the more pragmatic and explainable “how?” questions. And therein lies the problem.
There was a solar eclipse last week, and everyone gathered with wonder and astonishment to watch, but the wonder seemed to die once the sun was no longer obscured. That seems ironic to me. There’s a giant, flaming ball of gas in the sky that gives us heat and growing plants and delicious Sunny D, and we only find it amazing when something gets in its way?
We need to rethink the way we perceive the world, and it starts with hope and humility. Maybe we haven’t figured out everything there is to know about the things and people and places in front of us. In the words of G.K. Chesterton, “The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.”
Have something you’re wondering about? Tell Chase about it at ninjaish “at” stanford “dot” edu.