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Grandpa Fosters Sense of Wonder


Ben is six years old. He lives with his mother, Jane, in a lovely old house about 10 kilometers from Ottawa.

This afternoon, Ben is helping his mom clean the yard and get the garden ready for planting. For the past few weeks, he has been watching the ice break up in the Ottawa River, which runs beside his home. Over the winter, he tracked birds to the feeder outside the kitchen window. Now, he is comparing early bird sightings with his Grandpa, who lives in Guelph.

Recently, Ben has become an avid student of the night sky spurred on by books and videos about stars and planets – birthday gifts from his Grandpa and Aunt Anna. Learning that he lives on a planet soaring around a star floating in the vast ocean of the cosmos has left Ben spellbound, and brimming with questions.

Many children today are initiated into their world through T.V. especially through the ads that remind them, day after day, to be dissatisfied with what they have.

“The ad is our culture’s primary vehicle for providing our children with their personal cosmologies… the culture’s primary way for shaping our children,” writes mathematical cosmologist, Brian Swimme in The Hidden Heart of the Cosmos: Humanity and the New Story (Maryknoll, New York: Orbis Books)

Twenty thousand years ago in southern Europe, our ancestors crawled for days on their backs through the labyrinthine caves to gather for their religious celebrations.

Now, like those children in the past who gathered in the caves and listened to the chant of the elders – our children gather night after night in the television room and listen to the chant of the advertisement.

What is the effect on them? On us?

We have lost contact with the natural world as our home – lost our sense of wonder and celebration – lost the conviction that we live in a sacred universe.

Ben’s sense of amazement in discovering the universe of birds and animals, stars and planets, amphibians and wetlands heartens his Grandpa. These seeds of wonder must be nurtured in the young, he believes, if we are to live the universe story as our personal story as well as our community story.