A few years ago, David Attenborough came to do a book signing at our local Ottakars (as it was then). Mum was so excited and wanted to get one of her books signed by him, but at the same time was slightly hesitant. As a little girl, she used to run home from school so she could watch his TV programme (I assume it was Zoo Quest or similar). Suddenly, after years of watching him on TV, she was worried that she might be terribly disappointed. Happily, all was well- she knew that things were going to be fine when he took out a beautiful fountain pen to sign her book with!
I saw an interview with David Attenborough recently, and they showed a clip of his visit to Madagascar in 1960. He described the wonder of being there, of filming it and how to many many people, it was the first time they would have seen the place and the wildlife there. He described how much technology has come on since then, when he had to use wind up cameras that lasted for only a short while. The thing that really made me think, was the idea of wonder. I consider myself very lucky to remember a world without computers. Well, of course there were computers, but not in common use at all, and practically prehistoric compared to todays. There were no computers in the home, or most offices when I was little. I think I appreciate them more now because I remember what it was like before. I remember life before the internet. So many people will never know a world before, and I have been pondering about the sense of wonder.
While I grew up before computers, I grew up when wildlife programmes were already on tv, when David Attenborough had been making programmes for years, and the things being shown weren’t new or things we had not seen before. That is not a criticism of the programmes, but just if you have seen elephants, for example, in films and tv programmes a lot, seeing them on a documentary is not going to be as exciting as if you were seeing them for the very first time.
I can’t even begin to think that the internet and computers and technology are bad things, although they can of course be used in bad ways, but it makes me think, are we losing our sense of wonder? We are flooded with information, with images, sounds, stuff. So many people have an internet connection now, and can find more or less anything within moments. There are live webcams that I can use to see the view in Times Square, right now. Did I mention that the other day, I was in the baby and toddler aisle of Boots, and as well as Farley’s Rusks, they had Spelt and Pommegranate Fingers for little ones? It made me giggle, to think of a little toddler enjoying spelt and pommegranate, things that would have been alien to our parents as toddlers.
None of this is bad, and I do realise I may sound like I am having a rant…but we live in such a snowglobe of information and so much is accessible to us now, I am worried that it is hard to feel a sense of wonder nowadays. What surrounds us becomes normal, and what is normal we can become blind to. A friend emailed me to tell me about a holiday she has just returned from, where she saw a lake so big, that it could hold New York! I could not even comprehend a lake so big, but also I found it amazing that she could go there and see it. Just like that! We are so lucky to live in this age, of having more and being able to do more, even though we are, as the newspapers keep telling us, in an age of austerity!
So my resolve is to try and keep my sense of wonder. To appreciate the tiny things, the little things. To examine things and pay them more attention. To take pleasure in them, and imagine I lived perhaps 100 years ago, and to realise how amazing so many of the things I take for granted would seem to me then.
Wherever you are, I hope you are surrounded by things that make you smile in wonder.