Socrates said that wisdom begins in wonder. We gain knowledge through the intellect. We can gain understanding through the experiences of the years lived. Wonder leads us into true wisdom.
This idea brings my father to mind this morning. All of my grandparents emigrated from other countries, three of them from the Basque country in northern Spain. My father was born on a sheep ranch in northern Nevada in 1917. His parents owned the ranch and provided for their sheepherders, who were all Basque. Dad did not learn English until he was ready to start school. At that time, he was taken into town to live with his grandmother and mainly saw his parents in the summer. Summers on the ranch were a joy because he was with his parents and because, like most Basques, he had an innate love and understanding of animals. By the time he was nine or ten, he would take the flock up into the mountains to find water and cooler air. One of the older herders would bring provisions for him and his sheep dogs. He slept under the stars and heard only the sounds of nature during those times. My father grew to be a man of the earth and he found wonder in the stars. His imagination soared. The ranch was lost during the depression and they moved into town permanently and survived those times with dignity and quiet grace.
He became an athlete in high school and was granted a full scholarship to the University of Nevada in Reno. In those days, an athlete had to letter in every sport to keep his scholarship and my dad did. I never really understood the depth of my father’s ability to dream until my own enlightenment began to unfold. Now, I see it in the wonders that unfolded in his life. During his senior year of college, two incredible offers came to him at the same time. Each could be the fulfillment of his dreams. One was the result of his talent and dedication as an athlete: a baseball tryout with the Giants. The other was the fulfillment of that young boy alone in the hills of northern Nevada, sleeping under the stars and longing to reach them: a call to be interviewed for pilot training with the newly named Army Air Corp. He had to make a choice and he chose what had brought him the sense of wonder as a child. He chose to fly. He was on active duty in three wars: WWII, Korea, and Viet Nam. He flew combat out of New Guinea in WWII and over north Viet Nam. He replaced combat troups in England during the Korean Was. No one before him in his family even went to high school.
He was not a man of words. He lived from his heart and he wasn’t perfect or always wise. He was passionate and strong and he wept when those he loved died or were hurting. When he spoke from the heart, people listened. They heard the wisdom that began in that little boy alone on the mountain with his sheep and his dogs. They heard what was born as he slept to the sound of night birds and sheep comforting their young and as he awoke and followed his dogs responding to the presence of coyotes. Together they ran to assure the safety of the herd. My father lived in wonder and, when he was old, the sweetness of his soul brought me comfort and support during the most challenging times of my adult life. He supported my dreams and my hopes and he respected my choices when he didn’t understand how I move through the world.
Wonder opens the mind and heart and it nurtures the Soul. Wonder welcomes our dreams and the visions we carry of what life in human form can be. Watch a toddler. Everything they see is new and a source of wonder to them. My granddaughter was ecstatic at the pumpkin farm – pumpkins like in her books but real! Baby goats, not pictures, but real live baby goats! She was beside herself with joy and wonder and she took us with her. 20 months old and she took us with her on a journey of wonder, joy, and ecstasy.
Life is good.