I’ve just come across a fabulous new word. ‘Wonderlust’ jumped into my head one day as I was trying to describe an attitude of open curiosity about people and ideas, driven by genuine wonder and delight in life and a desire to live fully. Of course I found online that others had used the word before.
In particular, I was drawn to an engaging blog called the Wonderlust Journal, where Eliza Coleman posts ‘random acts of creativity’. She describes Wonderlust as ‘a strong, innate desire for things that inspire wonder or the urge to create’. Among other things, Eliza posted a link to a video called The Joy of Books which is worth watching for pure meaningless fun – especially if you love the world of books as I do. It’s set in a bookstore in Toronto and filmed by the owners, Lisa and Sean Ohlenkamp. Wonderlust is also the name of a program of continuing learning at the University of Montana. As a title, it’s a lot more alluring than the usual ‘lifelong learning’. Then I came across an album and a film with that name. The internet is a seductive time waster ….. enough wandering around.
Philosophy begins with wonder. This statement was spoken by Socrates, though written by Plato, but it’s been used by many philosophers along the way, in particular the phenomenologists or existentialists such as Sartre and Merleau-Ponty, who put out the left wing journal, Modern Times, in post war Paris. It sounds nerdy, but I love phenomenology as a philosophy because it asks questions about what it means to be human and considers philosophy should be lived rather than just talked about. I heard about Modern Times as a teenage student, during that magic year of change, 1968, when, with the enthusiasm of youth, we felt we could change the world into a better place.
I think I’ve had a severe case of wonderlust, from when I was a teenager through to my current ageing self, although it was necessarily constrained by the ties of work and family responsibilities. In some ways, I feel that ageing allows space to let curiosity and creativity off the leash, to let them free to roam in whatever life is left to live. Getting older, If we’re lucky enough to be healthy, can be like reliving the teenage years with a lot more worldly wisdom, but a loss less angst; although it’s a pity that the wonders of a lithe teenage body are lost with the angst.
I think of wonderlust as a curiosity to hear peoples stories; to see places, distant and close, with fresh eyes; to try new things and find ways to understand life more deeply. It’s about an openness to live life close up, with feet in the mud and pasture of life, not as a distant, contained way of knowing. It’s about a lust to dance with life, with hands stretching out towards the blue unknown. It’s about being poised between mud and sky, where the rich messiness of life happens, sometimes stumbling, but occasionally leaping. It’s a good time to be alive.