‘Sense of wonder’ a secret to perpetual youth
by JOYANNA WEBER, Banner Staff Writer
Jun 23, 2013 | 279 views | 0 0 comments | 6 6 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Joyanna Weber
Joyanna Weber
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Lightning bugs still thrill me when they pierce the darkness on a warm summer night.

I still search the skies for rainbows after the rain has stopped.

And thinking of castles still fills me with a sense of adventure and wondering what it might be like to live in one.

Though chasing fireflies is largely something left behind in childhood by most adults, I will admit to trying to catch butterflies long past the normal age.

In fact, many aspects of the world still fill me with a sense of wonder.

I have never seemed to outgrow the stage of perpetual question asking and wanting to know why. Fortunately for me, pestering people with questions is an acceptable practice for a reporter.

Human beings since ancient times have searched for the secret to perpetual youth. Vasco da Gama, a Portuguese explorer, searched for the Fountain of Youth. Many fairy tales have desire to stay young as their theme.

In our modern society, we have grown beyond believing that a magical spring can reverse aging. We have turned to science instead with aisle after aisle in stores across this nation being lined with products promising to slow or reverse the aging process.

I submit to you that perpetual youth is more about attitude than it is facial lines.

In her song “I Hope You Dance,” Lee Ann Womack says, “I hope you never lose your sense of wonder.” This line sums up my thoughts on perpetual youth.

Having a “sense of wonder” is that feeling that you get when you experience something just beyond your current understanding; that is, having something make you stop and take a second look because you want to understand it. A desire to learn, understand and explore — these are fuel for a sense of wonder that captures the spirit of perpetual youth.

Young children are always in a state of exploration and wonder while discovering the world around them. It doesn’t take much to make them happy. As they grow older they learn what is safe, and are told to be careful. Exploration often becomes more structured through school and organized activities.

Students usually have a subject that appeals to them the most, and the majority of exploration then becomes limited to that field as they begin to think about choosing a career.

For many students today, exploration is focused on technology. They learn to use it better than their parents as new features and games are added.

A continual pursuit of knowledge and perpetual youth are linked. New things lie around every corner. A dragonfly will bring a smile and excitement. Learning how a new machine works or how a book was made makes the eyes widen.

A phrase I use quite often at the end of a conversation is: “I was just curious.”

Curiosity keeps life exciting. I once had a conversation with a college professor where I bemoaned that people were not curious anymore.

It led me to wonder if curiosity can be taught. In the years since that conversation I have come back to that question many times.

Can curiosity be taught?

The conclusion I have come to is no. Curiosity cannot be taught, but it can be encouraged.

It can be encouraged by giving students safe places to explore, as well as opportunities to be curious and ask questions where they can find out the answers.

As I reflect back on my childhood, I had those opportunities. Time in our fenced-in yard was plentiful. Trips to the library both during school and during the summer were frequent. I watched as breadboxes and wooden jigsaw apples took shape as my Dad worked in the basement. Gardens with leftover seeds from school-required experiments grew every year from the time I was in third grade to sixth under the watchful eye of Mom.

In short, I was encouraged to learn, explore and experiment within boundaries.

Along with Womack, my wish for those searching to never seem old is to “never lose your sense of wonder (or if you already have, that you find it again) ... I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,” and be forever curious.