Beginning in wonder

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Francesco Dimitri opens with a recap of Plato writing in Theaetetus a dialogue between Socrates and his student. Theaetetus admits that he is ‘amazed’ by the day’s lesson and then Socrates declares “You must therefore be a philosopher, as wonder is the feeling of a philosopher, and philosophy begins in wonder.”

In his Words:
“For an ancient Greek, the word ‘philosophy’ (‘love of wisdom’) had a quite different meaning from the one it has for us today. .. ‘philosophy’ could express itself in theories about the cosmos, in poems and in riddles, and often in a mix of all three. So, when Socrates says that philosophy begins in wonder, he is actually saying that everything that makes us human – science, art, religion, you name it – begins in wonder. From practical questions about tool-making and house-building to spiritual ones about the nature and power of the gods, it all stems from there. Socrates’ questions to Theaetetus weren’t intended to be answered, but to awaken the boy’s sense of wonder.”

This passage is indeed an inspiration for me, it is precisely how I see this blog forming over the next period of time. “Questions to awaken wonder”… questions about various fields of science, about art and poetry and story craft, about the gods and God and me.

So join me in this study if you wish, see if you can generate some excess of wonder in your heart and mind.

Thank you for reading. I hope to earn your appreciations.

That Sense of Wonder

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Currently Reading Series

I’ve been writing this blog for some many years now, not extensively, nor really all that seriously, but an underlying theme has been process and outputs of wonder. As I revamp Spare Wonder, it seemed reasonable, to me at least, to begin with a book on wonder as a practice. Some books investigate wonder as an emotion – which seems off-center to me, though I do think the practice of wonder will present emotional responses. This book seems, from the outset anyway, to consider wonder a “sense” – but one which we tend to tamp down as we exit childhood.

In Their Words:

“All of us experience a sense of wonder at some point in our lives. Perhaps you felt it when you experienced your first kiss; when you grasped the perfectly balanced beauty of an equation; or when you first saw the rose windows of Chartres Cathedral? Whatever the circumstances that triggered the feeling, you were left speechless by this extraordinary world of ours. We may speak different languages, cling to different ideas about politics, religion, and love—but a longing for wonder connects us all through space and time. Wonder is the impulse behind scientific and philosophical inquiry, artistic creativity, and spiritual yearning. It is the most fruitful human sense: firing our curiosity; inspiring us to hope and dream. But our sense of wonder—that feeling we had as children seeing the Milky Way for the first time—gets used up. Faced with the practical demands of adulthood, we trade a sense of wonder for a sense of reality, which all too often brings anxiety and unhappiness in its wake. By exploring the nature of wonder in many areas of human experience, from the natural world to the spirit world, from science to storytelling, Francesco Dimitri reveals how we can reclaim our sense of wonder—not to become children again, but to become happier and more fulfilled adults, better equipped to face the challenges of modern life.”

Focus: Focus

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Truth is I have been scattered and spread wide across many goals and projects. Bruce Lee inspired me to start adding focus by taking away the things causing diffusion.

My reading and studying time, while something I enjoy and look forward to, has largely been driven by whim. That is… whatever strikes my interest on any given day is what I tend to read. This is not necessarily “bad” but it does tend to make one feel scattered. One of my new years resolutions, then, is to feel a lot less scattered in my mind.

I have learning projects for work which I cannot set aside. They are, however, more difficult than they used to be as a result of this scattered experience I am trying to cut out. I have a lot of other areas I spend study time with – tai chi (and related martial arts) because I have been teaching it for year now and need to fuel up. Also anatomy and bio-mechanics (not that I want to be an expert – but I believe these topics are going to support my ability to teach tai chi). I’ve been also studying Taoism – not because I want to be a Taoist religiously – but rather because tai chi is founded upon philosophically and there is much to learn. I have other areas of interest that scatter me as well – such as leadership and writing and coaching and problem solving and decision making and the art of a good story and how to develop experiences for others. The list literally goes on and on but most topics are related to the goals I have for my future.

Because these topics are not just passing fancy but are related to achievement goals, I suspect I probably should get a little bit more systematic about my learning habits. Focus seems as good a place to start as any. I plan on reading several books on the topic of concentration and focus – what it is and how to develop it more fully.

I will share the books I am working from in case you want to read them but I’m not going to post any affiliate links or advertisements or other such nonsense. My goal is to keep this blog distraction free and easy to experience because, if you are yourself a life-long learner and interested in similar topics, I want you to benefit from my efforts here – whoever you are.

If you find you do benefit and want to share back some – buy me a coffee at ko-fi
( https://ko-fi.com/sparewonder )

Beginning Focus

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Greetings Fellow Wonderers

As previously mentioned, I am determined to study and then develop some focus in 2020. Call it a “resolution” if you must – it prolly qualifies but the fear is that using the word solely will jinx the effort so I shall refer to it as a goal and a project.

What is meant by “Focus”? Why is it so difficult to tell my distractions to “Piss Off!”? How can I strengthen my ability to focus and concentrate in any given moment – and then, over a period of time (like pursuing a goal or project or holding to a resolution?

I’ve added a number of books to my reading queue to support this months learning project. Some I’ve read before – at least in part. Others have been randomly picked up for “someday”. The process I’ve designed for this learning journal is pretty simple (and I believe it needs to remain so). First, I spend some time reading, daily as much as is possible. I already have a habit of highlighting the bits that strike me as interesting or useful or clever – and so I will do that. I will then select one or two highlights for the day and write from them. I intend to write beyond the “summary” or “book report” format – I intend the writing to be reflections, responses, and maybe a bit of rebuttal to content.

When learning something new, it seems handy to begin with a recollection of what one already knows. What are the existing concepts and beliefs that are in play? Which of these should be reinforced and which should be reduced, re-thought or run-down and eradicated? So that is where I am, the beginning…

Focus… what is focus in my own words? The cognitive ability to remain on a single track of thinking or study or awareness or presence.

What is it’s opposite concept? Distraction seems the fitting word. A distraction being “a thing that prevents someone from giving full attention to something else.”

Once a month or so, I teach a week-long Problem Solving training course where I work my day job. Because I work at a tech company – everyone in the class is toting a laptop and are very likely to get pulled away from the training by work items – by distractions. In suggesting some “best practices” for getting the most out of the training, I say this: “Multi-tasking is merely practicing distraction. Distraction is bad for your brain. Practice Focus. Focus is good for you!”. Few it seems actually hear me when I say this because most will attempt to multi-task within hours (sometimes minutes) of having suggested it is a bad idea. I have to remind myself that distraction is not only a habit for them (and me) but it is also an addiction of sorts. We live in a climate of attention snatching technology. I believe also… it is a health risk.

I have been in my career field for 20 years now. Early on, my ability to learn new technologies was strong – I was seen as a “quick learner” and a good resource for new team members to work with as a result. Today, however, I struggle to learn new technologies quickly. It requires more time than it ever used to and I feel like it is often a slog. There may be many possible reasons in play – but in reflection I have to admit that the time I spend learning on the job is rife with distraction, and that is a primary reason I struggle to learn quickly. (Granted, I am also 20 years older than when I started out and it is possible I am just slowing down some.)

Speaking of work – I am getting pinged to engage there… will need to return to this line of thinking tomorrow.

New Wonder 2020

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Starting over seems a reasonable thing from time to time. Speaking of time… 2020 is upon us. Assuming the next decade…. I’m wondering about who I shall be and what I shall be doing. More importantly perhaps, what shall I be learning. I’ve been playing with the idea of keeping a learning journal online so that I can track and share my findings.

I have a lot of interests brewing and I figure I shall choose a new focus monthly – really just a key word or concept – something to guide what I am reading, thinking about, and writing in my learning journal.

I read a lot. Mostly non-fictions (but I do need some more story in my life as well). Just reading, however, is a minimal way to learn and so I read and then write my reflections on the material. This is not a set of foot notes – though I expect to work from quotes.

If, as this thing goes forward, you find some helpful bits and you want to support my book habit – you can “buy me a coffee” by which I mean… a new book (or just a portion of one) here:
https://ko-fi.com/sparewonder

Many thanks