Friday, August 12, 2011


From the enormous to the tiny.  I said that my first sense of a feeling of wonder had a component of fear within it, but upon further inspection I am not certain that is necessary.  Perhaps the fear is simply an extension of another component of wonder: the inexplicable.

Monarch butterflies migrate as far as 2500 miles from their spring and summer feeding grounds to return to California and Mexico where they hibernate during the winter.  Millions of butterflies make this journey every year, but the most fascinating thing about it to me is that only 1 out of every 4 generations make this journey and no single butterfly ever makes the journey more than once.  Monarch butterflies go through 4 generations each year.  The first 3 live only 6 to 8 weeks, while the fourth lives 6 to 8 months, migrates, hibernates, and then produces a new 1st generation that will migrate back to the feeding grounds.  Aside from their spectacular beauty, their inexplicable sense of their own species life cycle induces a sense of wonder.

You may want to skip around a bit in this video, as it is 10 minutes long, but at very least it gives a good sense of what the butterflies are like in their migration and hibernation.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011


Recently I've been thinking about the time and effort I put into studying the Humanities.  I guess I'd be considered an expert on some of man's greatest thinking, though I feel like I've barely scratched the surface.  I've especially felt a connection with the writings of Aristotle, probably because of his curiosity and insight.  But I think perhaps what I felt connected to was the innate sense of wonder that must have driven him to write so much on so many different topics.  When I started thinking about that, I began to ask myself what happened to my own sense of wonder.  It isn't gone, I've felt it at times flickering on the edge of my consciousness, but it's certainly been subdued.  Certainly one of the lessons I took from St. John's was that there is more to knowledge than simply studying.  My childhood exuberance for studying the scientific returned to me then, as I feel it returning now and, rather than pass it morsels or focus on the humanistic sciences like math and physics, I think I'd like to let it take in a full course meal of the wonder that we should all experience.  Hopefully, while I'm doing that, I'll learn a little more about the feeling of wonder itself.

So the first step is to explore some things that really invoke my sense of wonder.  Today, some videos of whale sharks!  Sorry about the music in this clip, maybe mute the Coldplay.  There are 4 whale sharks in captivity at the Georgia Aquarium in their 5 million gallon Ocean Voyager exhibit.  Certified divers can actually set up an appointment to swim with them and also with manta rays.  While their massive size (about as big as a school bus) is certainly intimidating, they are considered to be very gentle and have been known to playfully allow divers to swim with them.  As a child I was very fearful of deep, open water and especially of large sea creatures.  I think the memory of that fear contributes to my sense of wonder at these animals.
Whale sharks are the largest fish on the planet, reaching over 40 ft. in length.  Their diet primarily consists of plankton, though you can see one consuming small bait fish in the clip above.  Wonder for me seems, at least at the moment, to be a sandwich (philosophically speaking) of fear, fascination, and the kind of detachment that a being so alien to my own inspires.

Anyhow, enjoy the videos.