Numbers, Grokking, and Wonder

This is not the post I wanted to write.

However, Time-beggars can’t be choosy.

This post is about wonder.  Or at least, it’s related to the idea of experiencing a a sense of “wonder” at the universe.

It wasn’t originally intended to be about wonder, though.  At first, it was just going to be an observation about paths less traveled, but an open question from a friend about our experiences of wonder led me to make this connection… and tell this story…

And here it is:

Today, as I was riding my bike in the cold–but not too cold–November air, I was confronted with a Detour.  At the intersection of Walter St and the bike path, I was told I could go no further and must make a detour.

This irked me.  I was busy and had 7 proposals still to grade and get back to my students, and I was already late with them.

Thus, my ill humor about the detour.

But whining–even entirely internal whining–does not suit me. It is a waste.  Thus, I made my turn and started on my detour… and lo and behold, I liked it.

really liked it.

This appreciation came from the fact that I quickly realized that I had never ridden down this street before.. and then never down the next.. and the next after that.. and I had never been through that park–which looked like it would be lovely for a picnic in summer—and I had never gotten to appreciate riding along the Starkweather Creek on that stretch looking over at the backside of that ancient, abandoned, partially dilapidated building (which I’ve discovered is the old Garver Feed Mill–front view below that I always see.)….

… and I had never gone over that cute little bridge to make it back to Fair Oaks Drive and then back to the Bike Path.

I had never been there.  I had ridden near there over a thousand times in the past three years, but had not spent the time to go off my path and see these sights.

And why should I.  These were just ordinary street blocks–little different than a hundred or a thousand other places in this very large small town that I’ve lived in since the last millenium.

But that’s the point.

That’s where the wonder came in–because in the very ordinariness–and yet the beauty and uniqueness of this place.. I felt a sense of wonder.  I have lived in this city for over a decade–and yet I’ve probably walked, ridden, driven on less than 10% of its streets–seen less than 10% of all of the houses… I think I know Madison–and in some real ways, I do–but even in our “knowledge” of a place, we often only know a very rough grasp of stuff… we only see 10% of what’s there..

That number created the wonder for me in important ways.. (as numbers often do..)

10% of reality.

And that may be enough to get along splendidly in our lives… in fact, for many people, maybe that’s already too much.. I don’t know..

Time for a tangent.

I wonder if there is a difference on this score between urban and rural experiences and mental structures… maybe when one comes from a small community, one does get to know everything about that community (because it is so small in comparison) and that gives you a different sense of things.. whereas for me–growing up in Chicago–one just accepts that there is far more around you than you will ever see or know. .. and maybe that changes your perspective…

Back to the earlier tree fork.

Is 10% (or whatever small %) enough?  Maybe this is different for others–maybe the fact that I’m an introvert–and a strong creature of habit at that–means that I’ve always been overly invested in consolidating my experience rather than propagating myself throughout the space all around me.  Perhaps extraverts wouldn’t have limited themselves in this way and thus would find this all pretty naive and obvious.

Could be (and any thoughts on this are most welcome!)–but it did help me grok a bit more of this place.. and of my place within it.  Perhaps I will try to discover this other 90% over time… and maybe this initial sense of wonder will drive my continuous pursuit of knowledge in a new direction…

One can hope.


About Prof. Woland

I contain multitudes. Come meet us.
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