Perhaps we are lacking the recognition that our responses to the whole world should not most deeply be that of doing, nor even that of terror and anguish, but that of wondering or marveling at what is, being amazed or astonished by it, or perhaps best, in a discarded English usage, admiring it; and that such a stance. . . is the only source from which purposes may be manifest to us for our necessary calculating.
In this opening quote by George Grant in the Foreword of the book Beauty for Truth’s Sake lies the sum of the entire book, and profound key insights of the nature of education, and the absolutely important role of wonder and the task of awakening wonder in our students.
First, the book prioritizes the role of wonder above the role of doing, which is here referring to not only practical aspects of learning (such as calculating, mentioned at the end of the quote), but the pragmatic bent of most people (adults and students) in learning.
Second, the role of wonder here is not restricted simply to some extraordinary phenomena or events. It assumes that the whole world, every ordinary mundane aspect of life, is full of wonder—God’s wonder.
Third, it identifies the chief problem of the modern world (especially our fast paced, internet-soaked generation) as that of not recognizing the source of true progress – our wonder (of God’s glory). Wonder is the source of scientific ingenuity and artistic beauty. This is historically true with all the greatest artistic and scientific achievements.
Fourth, it implies that ultimately, there are only two forces that motivate people: terror and beauty. As fallen beings, we are full of fear, and constantly motivated by fear, terror and anguish. Psychologically, most people, especially most students, do not know that they are being motivated by fear. Fear of failure, fear of disapproval, etc. These kinds of fear will ultimately paralyze. The only solution is to expel those fear with wonder, and astonishment at God’s beauty.
Fifth, the great assumption underlying this conviction is that God’s revelation of his glory requires a heart response—of humility, thanksgiving, and a sense of awe at God’s goodness, truth, and beauty. It is this heart response that then reveals God’s “purposes” which “manifest for us for our necessary calculating.” This book is full of specific examples of how our hearts response to God’s beauty in science, art, music, and architecture leads to freedom, creativity, and innovation.
On a personal note, besides visiting museums and enjoying nature with my family, I have been listening to certain types of classical or Christian music that lift our hearts to the heavens. Recently, I met a Professor Soo Yong Kim, a renown retired physicist and educator, who is on a crusade to reform education in Korea and the United States. I listened to some of his YouTube testimonies and heard that a major turning point in his life was when he was listening to Vivaldi’s Kyrie while riding the NY subway during his graduate days in Columbia University. Upon listening to it for the first time, this piece had such a powerful effect on me that I kept going back to it again and again. Here is the link. Every time I listen to this piece, it is as if the music attached on me wings with which to soar through the heavens. An unspeakable sense of calm and peace overcomes me. My mind becomes clearer and more focused, my thoughts become more organized, and most significantly, my soul is more attuned to God’s heart and his direction for my life. May the Lord bless you and your children as we seek to awaken wonder in God's beauty, especially through science and arts this year.