Sense of Wonder

Recent storms ripped leaves and some rotted branches from trees, littering the streets with natural debris. The rotted branches, smashed beneath the wheels of cars, become orange and brown detritus, leaving the roadways splotched with abstract designs. The early morning sun and shadow plays with the artistic compositions, creating even more complex patterns. I watch these evolving images from the safety of my window, for now, but when I get in my car in a few minutes, I’ll have to force myself to pay attention not to the natural artwork, but to oncoming traffic and bends in the road.

The art in nature seems mostly random, but if you observe it closely over enough time, you will find repetitive shapes and forms and textures. What we see, on close inspection, is the natural configuration of cells and crystals, amplified thousand of times over. The symmetry of crystalline structures is among the most obvious repetitions, but repetitions are everywhere. We see the macroscopic versions of incredibly complex microscopic symmetries.

I sometimes long to know more than I do about the intricacies of leaves and tree trunks and minerals. But then I wonder whether such deep knowledge can damage the sense of wonder one feels in the natural world? Does the natural environment become somewhat clinical, knowing that beneath the stunning beauty are structures readily explainable by physics and biology and mathematics? I doubt it. I know people whose knowledge of the natural world greatly eclipses mine and they seem to have an even greater sense of awe about it than I.

Time to stop wondering. I’m off to have my ultrasound. Oh boy.

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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