By Mya Om
As I started to contemplate having a sense of wonder, I started to write about appreciating life, about enjoying things like sunsets, five-minute coffee breaks at work, and the ice-cold feeling of breathing in cold air on a crisp winter morning. I even got as far as quoting Thoreau:
The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is called resignation is confirmed desperation… A stereotyped but unconscious despair is concealed even under what are called the games and amusements of mankind. There is no play in them, for this comes after work. But it is a characteristic of wisdom not to do desperate things.1
As I read this quote over and over, I started to realize I had missed the point. Wonder isn’t about enjoying the good moments. It is about actually enjoying life –warts and all. Yup, that’s a touch harder to do. I mean, how do you do that? How do you escape living a life of quiet desperation? What makes happy people different from unhappy people?
Dictionary.com defines desperation as being without hope. Conversely wonder is something strange and surprising; feeling excited by something strange; a mixture of surprise, curiosity, and sometimes awe. The real question is, can you be hopeless and still live your life with a sense of wonder? I started thinking about this on October 15th. Twenty days later I was still no closer to a real answer – what I had was a looming deadline and a life that was starting to gobble up what little free time I had.
I started to quantify all the things I enjoyed – good coffee, lazy Sunday mornings, trees, my family, etc… I stopped when I remembered the quote about happy families from Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy. “Happy families are happy for one reason, unhappy families are unhappy for a multitude of reasons.”2 It was then that I had my ah-ha moment (not the ah-ha moment that this month’s article is about Mya’s enjoyment of 19th century literature), rather the ah-ha moment that it is not one thing or another that causes people to live this life of quiet desperation, instead like Leo said through his protagonist Anna, it is a multitude of reasons. So where am I going with this, you wonder. Good questions – I wish I knew, but I intend to find out.
The Fool is the first card of the major arcana in the Rider Waite tarot deck. He is signified by the number zero. In the story of the major arcana we meet The Fool on his first step in a long journey that will take a lifetime. I invite you to come on this fool’s journey with me, to delve into those things that cause you to feel discomfort or unhappiness. To question why some things hold you back, or why there are some things that you simply cannot master. What is it about your life that is keeping you from living a life filled with wonder? What is it about your life that makes it one of quiet desperation?
The Fools Meditation
You will need:
- 5-10 Minutes
- A copy of The Fool card from the Rider Waite Tarot (this is available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rider-Waite_tarot_deck#Major_Arcana)
Take a few moments and read the following excerpt from The Pictorial Key to the Tarot:
With light step, as if earth and its trammels had little power to restrain him, a young man in gorgeous vestments pauses at the brink of a precipice among the great heights of the world; he surveys the blue distance before him – its expanse of sky rather than the prospect below. His act of eager walking is still indicated, though he is stationary at the given moment; his dog is still bounding. The edge which opens on the depth has no terror; it is as if angels were waiting to uphold him, if it came about that he leaped from the height. His countenance is full of intelligence and expectant dream. He has a rose in one hand and in the other a costly wand, from which depends over his right shoulder a wallet curiously embroidered. He is a prince of the other world on his travels through this one — all amidst the morning-glory, in the keen air. The sun, which shines behind him, knows whence he came, whither he is going, and how he will return by another path after many days. He is the spirit in search of experience.3
Then close your eyes and after taking a few deep calming breaths, visualize yourself in the place of The Fool. You are the traveler on a journey of exploration. As you set your feet on the road and begin to walk down the path, you begin to see in the distance your destination. Each step brings you closer to it and eagerly you begin to run, rushing towards the end of the journey. The vistas around you change as you move – the sun moves across the horizon, the landscape transforms around you, but you do not notice – so focused are you on the destination. After a while of running you realize that the destination never seems to move closer, it is ever out of reach. In running towards the end you have missed the point of the journey – it is not the destination that matters, rather it is the road you take to get there that shapes who you are. Enlightened you open your eyes.
1Henry David Thoreau, Walden Pond, Ch1-Par 9.
2 Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina, Ch 1
3 A.E. Waite, The Pictorial Key to the Tarot, 1911 full text available at http://www.sacred-texts.com/tarot/pkt/index.htm