1: Wonder

“Wonder is our birthright…If we are safe and nurtured enough to develop our capacity to wonder, we start to wonder about the people in our lives, too—their thoughts and experiences, their pain and joy, their wants and needs. We begin to sense that they are to themselves as vast and complex as we are to ourselves, their inner world as infinite as our own. In other words, we are seeing them as our equal. We are gaining information about how to love them. Wonder is the wellspring for love…”

“Wondering about others helps us to wonder about ourselves. What stereotypes have we absorbed? Where do they come from? All of us assume that we are good people. When we set aside the labels ‘good’ and ‘bad,’ we can begin to wonder about our effect on the world, which of our actions create the world we want, and which destroy it. We can begin to let go of the stories that no longer serve us….Stories that divide the world into us and them have the singular power to disconnect us. But stories that expand the collective have the power to return us to one another.”

— Valarie Kaur, See No Stranger, Chapter 1

Understanding Wonder

A Practice of Love for Others

To wonder is to cultivate a sense of awe and openness to others’ thoughts and experiences, their pain, their wants and needs.  It is to look upon the face of anyone or anything and say: You are a part of me I do not yet know.  Wonder is an orientation to humility: recognizing that others are as complex and infinite to themselves as we are to ourselves. Wondering about a person gives us information for how to love them.

Wonder is the wellspring of love. The practice of wonder and “seeing no stranger” can transform us and our nation.

  1. How can the practice of wonder help us “see no stranger” and love others?
  2. What are the challenges of practicing wonder for others? 
  3. What do we lose or risk by not wondering about others?
  4. What becomes possible for us and for our nation when we practice wonder and “seeing no stranger”? 
  • A simple exercise, with massive repetition, can help us to orient to the world with wonder. Seeing strangers in our daily lives and saying in our minds, “Sister, Brother, Sibling. Aunt. Uncle” can help us to wonder about each person as a part of ourselves that we do not yet know. This repetition can help us re-train our brains to “see no stranger.” Notice what biases arise in this practice, and commit to the lifelong process of unlearning these biases.
  • Write in your wisdom journal. Reflect on the words: You are a part of me I do not yet know. Notice when, and with whom, this feels easy and when it feels difficult. Ask yourself: What would it mean to move through every day with that orientation? Invite your deep wisdom to speak to you.
  • Engage with and seek out the stories of others through reading, films, and engaging in social media. Sources like Humans of New York, StoryCorps, and The Moth offer brief stories and insights into worlds and experiences not our own.
  • Practices having nurturing conversations and connections with others. Organizations such as Living Room Conversations and “The People’s Supper bring together individuals to offer connection and discourse across differences.
  • Explore histories that focus on groups who have traditionally not been included in our history books. Great places to start include Zinn Educational Project, Stamped from the Beginning (Ibram X. Kendi) and oral histories from Voice of Witness.