The Ability to Wonder

Bruno Ferrero

Mountains-trees-people-web– “Do you believe in miracles?”
– “Yes.”
– “Yes? But have you ever seen one?”
– “A miracle? Yes.”
– “What miracle did you see?”
– “You.”
– “Me? A miracle?”
– “Sure.”
– “How am I a miracle?”
– “You breath. You have soft warm skin. Your heart beats. You can see. You can hear. Run. Eat. Jump. Sing. Think. Laugh. Love. Cry…”
– “Aaah … Is that it?”

That’s it.

It is tragic not being able to wonder. A child opens up to life through a chain of amazing and wonderful things. An educator’s most important task is keeping this ability alive in children as they grow up: it will be their life’s most precious quality.


People with a sense of wonder are not indifferent: they are open to the world, to humanity, to life. We come into the world with this one gift: the wonder of existence. Existence is a miracle. Other people, animals, plants, the universe, speak to us of this miracle. And we are miracles just like them. This is why we have to pay attention and be respectful. The person who sees life as wonderful is drawn to love humanity and respects it in them self and in others. Giving others the importance they deserve, we discover our own importance. Life has a value, a dignity. No one has the right to spoil it.

Human beings are not bad, they are sad. And the sad become bad. They are sad because they do not see the beauty of existence.

The capacity for wonder sets the willingness to fight for the value of life on fire: life is not for death and humanity is not just violence and mediocrity. We live believing life and humanity are worth it.

The danger today is that we lose sight of the child we once were, and are absorbed by a pounding senseless rhythm, and become impervious to the beauty of life. As we become adults we swap our ability to marvel with that of understanding. We reduce reality to an abstract concept, that is easy to maneuver and exploit, and lose sight of life’s mystery. We find it increasingly difficult to tune into that deep interiority from which flows the boundless world of emotions.


Anna, 46, a teacher, writes: “My life is divided into two periods: before and after the coma. At 26 I was in a coma for two weeks: I was in a car accident, after falling asleep at the wheel. When I opened my eyes, in the silence of the ward, I saw tiny lights dancing in front of me. I was alive. Seeing things, fireflies, butterflies, I don’t know what they were, but that’s how I rediscovered a sense of wonder. It was like being born again: the first sip of coffee, the first walk, the pleasure of looking at a magazine, asking what had happened during my short hibernation. Since then I have learned to look at things with different eyes. Since I woke up, everything is now a gift for me: this sense of wonder, which I discovered through fear, has made my life better. I’m no longer uncompromising and full of resentment. I’d changed, and the rest came by itself. Every morning I wake up thinking it’s amazing to see my children and pupils growing, to count the sunsets, try a recipe, prune my roses. Modugno was right when he wrote: “Wonderful / the morning light / the embrace of a friend / the face of a child / wonderful.” Too bad I discovered it only 20 years ago.”


It all begins with the sense. Life has a sense, in both senses of meaning and direction. Does anyone raise a child telling them life is absurd and isn’t worth living? That would be cruel and senseless. Each child asks its parents, “Why did you bring me into this world?”  We have all been called to live: life is a exciting vocation.

Having a sense of wonder means we see the world as a place of revelations. Like when faced with a snowy mountain or a forest, we feel immersed in the “beauty” and are not merely looking at a pile of stones covered with some ice or just a row of trees.

Life itself is beautiful, a magnificent gift; that is why everything wants to live and fights to live. Even a blade of grass, even a microscopic bacterium. And human beings discover their marvellous ability to think, to realise, to understand, and see themselves as a fantastic crossroad between the material and the spiritual.

The beauty of it all involves us: why do roses exist? Why are there people who become ecstatic in front of a flower?


We are surprised by goodness. Life is good. To listen to the arguments of some environmentalists, people are a bit much, they are pernicious. Christianity on the other hand teaches that all life participates in the work of creation. It is from here that contemplation, calm, simple serenity, enthusiasm and optimism spring forth. Suffering knocks us off our stride and disturbs us because it makes us understand in a brutal manner how great the deprivation is. We always cry for something beautiful, something essential, that we have lost.

The night before his execution, Jacques Decour, a communist partisan, wrote a last letter to his family: “Now that we are preparing to die, let’s think of what will come. It’s time to remind ourselves of love. Have we loved enough? Have we spent much time marvelling at others, being happy together, giving importance to our contact with people, weighing up and valuing our hands, eyes, and body?“


Gratitude only springs from wonder: to say thank you is to enter into the logic of the gift and reciprocating. Modern man gets indignant, protests, revindicates, but rarely says thanks. Yet all we have, we owe it to someone.

Wonder brings us back to heaven: this is the source of spirituality. There is a thread that runs from the concrete nature of life to the concrete nature of its origin. God is not an idea but a reality that has made itself seen and touched in Jesus of Nazareth, and he is the “God of the living” because logically the Creator of life cannot die.

So from the ability to know how to wonder we pass to worship. All we need do is to keep our eyes open.