Friday, January 10, 2014

Keeping a Wonder Journal

I am asking my students to keep a "wonder journal." This is to be a place to record and reflect upon experiences of wonder, and a means to consciously cultivate their sense of awe. Ultimately this will be a source of ideas for their academic projects, but before the wonder journal takes on that prosaic role, it needs to play a more subjective one.

If my students keep a wonder journal, they will experience wonders.

What kind of logic is that? This is completely artificial, I will admit. To keep a wonder journal does not give orders to the universe to arrange marvels. One might as well plan spontaneity! So, what's the point?

The point is that by making a routine of expectation, by keeping the door open for things sublime, that that faith will be rewarded. If you look for wonders, you tend to find them.

Travelers know this. They go to places -- whether that's the Great Wall of China or the Corn Palace of South Dakota -- expecting to be amazed, hoping to encounter things that will change the way they view the world. So use your wonder journal to be a traveler, whether or not there is actual travel involved.

Specific suggested entries:
  • Report an Experience
    Report specific, personal experiences with wonder, the sublime, or awe. Some could be from the past, and some should be from the present.
  • Identify awe-inspiring works of literature or art
    Focus on specific works that have proven powerfully meaningful to you in terms of creating moments of awe or wonder.
  • Explore one of the Terms of Awe
    Seek examples from one's own life, or as recorded in literature or other media. Choose something with which you've had a personal connection. 
  • Go on a Field Trip
    Go someplace where you are likely to experience the sublime. Tell the story in your wonder journal 
  • Make a Gratitude List
    This can be a bit of a cliche, but the act of listing a great number of things for which you are grateful can take you to a place of spiritual awe.
  • Draw a Picture
    Whether or not you're an artist, try to give some kind of visual rendering of something awe-inspiring. You might accompany this with an explanation.
Specific instructions for the assignment are posted here.