Blog: Have We Lost Our Ability to Wonder?

“Ohio,” my father said out loud in the middle of Sunday church.

Puzzled, I looked at him, and he just smiled back.  The biggest smile I’ve seen from him in a while.  I must admit, I wondered for a second if he was losing it.  I tilted my head, shrugged my shoulders, and moved on.

Later that day, he was hanging out with my family.  Someone had posed a question about what year an athlete had played on a local team.  One of my children, seemingly on auto-pilot, quickly looked up the answer on his device and blurted out the answer, like a robot reading from a script.

“Don’t kids have any sense of wonderment anymore?” my Dad asked.  “No, not really,” I responded matter-of-factly.

Dad’s right.  Whatever ability we’ve ever had to truly ponder and think about something, to rack our brains for the answer, seems gone today.  Vanished, like hand writing a letter to someone.  We’ve all been out with friends to have “that guy” in the group who is always on his phone looking up answers to questions that are posed.  Our ability to actually dialog on topics like this seems to be fading.

I suppose one could argue whether or not there are any unintended consequences for this, but I admit I worry that the value mental problem solving, and the sweat equity involved to do so, is missing from our youth today.  I remember thinking about work problems for days, only to solve them days later in a moment of silence.  I felt happiness from that, figuring out something on my own, giving it time, making by brain work for it.

Today, if kids don’t know the answer to something, they just look up the answer.  Done.  Move on to a new topic.  No debates, bets, or dialog.  Like it’s a waste of time to actually sit and think about something.

That night, I asked Dad why he said the word “Ohio” out loud during mass that morning.  He said that days before, his trivia calendar asked to name the three states that were four-letter words.  He immediately recalled Iowa and Utah, but couldn’t remember the third one.

Days later, it came to him: Ohio.  And, with it, a smile.  He had figured it out on his own, at his pace.  Thanks Dad!

3 thoughts on “Blog: Have We Lost Our Ability to Wonder?

  1. Anna Herrick

    Dad is the king of wonderments! I agree that the youth of today expect instant gratification and quick fixes. In medicine, they want a pill so their problems will go away. Very few want to do the work to “heal thyself”. Anna

  2. Sara

    I’ve long felt that from being bored and unconnected comes great creativity. People today, not only youth, are so connected that boredom is an alien concept. I worry that people don’t know how to be by themselves anymore and explore the contents of their own minds. S

  3. Nathan J. Benn


    These are just the times we live in – not to make an excuse for this. Yeah, I will teach Lena the glory of actually reading a book, playing with toys and wood blocks, and just leaving her alone to imagine a life outside the state of miserable Minnesota. But the digital age is here and it’s ubiquitous. This isn’t Little House on the Prairie any more. The question is – will this generation and those to come be SMARTER because of these times of digital wonder? The way things are turning out, not likely. Nobody gives a damn about the future, and nobody seems to want to solve REAL PROBLEMS that this blue marble in the vastness of space faces. We care more about when the next god-damn iPhone comes out rather than paying attention to the actions (or inactions) of our state and national representatives. It is my hope that this generation, and those to come, uses the digital tools we have and our innate intellect and curiosity to change this world for the better.

    Lena’s friends are going to have digital devices, her school probably will, and eventually she will probably have one (a hand-me-down). Our role is to set limits, have her learn to actually interact with people, be empathetic, and play outside!

    Hope this wasn’t too much of a non-sequitor. Uncle Omar, at least Grandpa doesn’t have Tourette’s.

    Best, Nate Skate Donate Deflate-Gate


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