Oct 10, 2016

The Importance of Wonder

Several large skyscrapers from Los Angeles

I had a different childhood than most kids. Both my parents served in the US Navy, and I spent almost my entire early and formative years overseas.  Whether through AFRTS (armed forces radio television) indoctrination or just plain old childhood observation, I learned that it was important that I never present a myself as a tourist.
Tourists are targets.

At least that is what I remember thinking as a child.

Also, American tourists, in my experience were horrible people.  I would see them in airports and hotels and quite vividly remember being appalled at their behaviour. They were always so very loud and obnoxious. I witnessed their pushy and entitled demeanor and was embarrassed. Whenever I travelled, I would even deliberately hide my accent in an attempt to hide my Americanism from anyone I might encounter just to remove what appeared to me, to be a very embarrassing association. Don't be a tourist, but if you're going to be one especially don't be an American one.

Colorful art depicting Native peoples of the past.

Tourists are not well looked upon in our society.  Often-times they are seen as ignorant, stupid, and/or funny.  The American Lampoon vacation series comes to mind. Clark Griswold perfectly embodies how we view tourists in the United States. Idiots with fanny packs. Those who don't know. Outsiders. Morons.  We roll our eyes thinking of hordes of Asian tourists in colorful clothing snapping photos. While we, the insiders, the knowledgeable, the unimpressed go about our day to day business. Getting things done, you know.

"Is this your first time here?"
- "No no... I have friends that live here."
- "Well I live in (some city very close-by) so not really."
- "Yeah, but I'm from (some other comparable place) so..."

Why do we naturally want to dissemble when asked that question? Why can't we just admit that we are tourists?  We're not from here. We are learning.
I suspect it is is the same reason that some people detest asking for directions.  No-one wants to be without knowledge, the un-initiated, so to speak.

The Triforium and L.A. City Hall

There is a great danger in this type of thinking that is almost never acknowledged. The danger is refusing to allow ourselves to engage in wonder. Wonder is one of the most important senses available to us.  Wonder allows us to admire. Wonder drives our curiosity. Wonder is fundamental to learning. Tourists, in order to even enjoy the act of visiting must always retain their sense of Wonder, otherwise they would never be tourists to begin with.

When we allow ourselves to wonder we subjugate the ego.  To wonder
is to admit that you don't know everything, and that there are things in this world you don't understand.  It is to have interest.  Many posts ago, I described how at one point in my life. I had become boring to myself.  That sort of thing occurs when we lose our sense of wonder with the world. It is an unconscious decision sometimes, but it is a decision we should make ourselves aware of.

Many times regaining our sense of wonder involves simply opening our eyes; shaking off the scales so to speak, and allowing ourselves to see the world as it is, and not as we imagine it.  Every building, every animal, every grotesquerie in life has an underlying beauty for those with eyes to see.

It is only recently that I have regained my ability to wonder. Hiking the Pacific Crest Trail, no doubt contributed mightily to the my ability to experience wonder with the natural world. More importantly even, I no longer have any reservations "playing tourist." I don't mind asking questions if I don't know something, and I enjoy learning new things more than almost anything else in this world.

In order to redefine "tourist" in my own mind, I decided to take a day and walk around Los Angeles, a city I had hitherto never taken the time to explore.  The skyline photographs in this post were taken from the 27th floor observation deck of Los Angeles City Hall, an interesting place, completely free to the public.

I would never have discovered this without first having regained my sense of wonder.  What places in your town, in your city, do you find a particular sense if wonder with?

A large black statue is surrounded by fountainsLarge building with press conference at the stepsA sign reads "create everyday, and excuses does not count"

A long Shadow is cast by City Hall in Los Angeles. A long Shadow is cast by City Hall in Los Angeles. A long Shadow is cast by City Hall in Los Angeles.

A view of the Los Angeles skyline from the 27th floor observation deck.

Oddly offset windows shoot up the side of building as captured from below.
a unique indentation in the skin of the a building

An eight sided star mosaic of brickwork on the ground.
Recurring symbol at Union Station in Los Angeles.  

A door leading nowhere in the middle of Los Angeles.

Union Station busy with people.
Union Station

Zigzagging staircase ramparts leading up to a half dome building
Solana Beach Train Station

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