The Hermit Shrimp

2021.06.15

The Post-Wonder Society

A world without hope

Brace yourself for an opinionated rant. If you were born before 2000, you probably still have memories of true wonder and fascination. I'm not talking about the wonder in the wild science clickbait you see on the internet or what is coming in the upcoming patch of a video game. I'm talking about the true wonder of just not knowing how something is to be. It's truly hard to put into words honestly without sounding insane, but here goes.

As a child, you probably at least once looked up to the sky and thought, "why is it blue?" In the pre-to-early-internet world, you'd go ask your parents. Maybe they didn't really know. You'd ask a teacher. They could give a vague answer, but they are also a first grade teacher and they really have no knowledge about those kind of things. If you really wanted an answer, you'd have to go to a library and look through various tombs of knowledge and stumble over the big words until you could sort of guess what really caused the sky to be blue. Even then, you wouldn't be 100% sure because the best you could do is make some inferences and guesses and the mystery of the blue sky would remain until you're old enough to learn about. And that two-sided sword teaches you why the sky is blue and simultaneously removes the wonder of that phenomenon from your life. Odds are, unless you had a room temperature IQ, there were many things that fell under this weird fascination where you wanted to know how something was but could not gather the knowledge of it so you had to interject your imagination to fill the blanks. That's how I define "wonder".

Now think about your every day life that you are living now. What do you do if you fall into a situation where you start to experience this form of wonder? If you're like any other human over the age of 8, you'll pop out an electronic wonder-destroying device and answer the question. Sure, you've answered your question immediately. Sure, you may greatly benefit from having that knowledge. But we're doing this for everything regardless of how important it may be destroying one chance of wonder after another.

"You're just being an old fogey. Get with the times."

Well, let me explain why I think this is such a bad trend. Without wonder,

  • There is no mystery of what could be
  • There is no hope for the possibilities
  • There is no dread for the unknown
  • There is no anticipation of learning
  • There is no imagination of why it is

These are just a few things I can list off the top of my head. And before you start interjecting that these things exist without wonder, wonder supplies them in a special magical way. Because if you don't have wonder, you don't have highs or lows and good or bad that you can control. "You" is the keyword. Wonder is your thing, the rest of the world could be burning, but you still have your own wonder. Without the highs and lows, you are just left with "eh". Floating in a grey middle of existence. Knowledge is great and all, but the unknown? That's a whole different thing.

"Well, okay. We're in a post-wonder society. Why does that matter?"

It matters quite a bit. If you have no hope for the future, do you have any willpower to fight for it? If you feel there is nothing you can do, why would you do anything? Humans thrive off of wonder and discovery. It's the purest form of dopamine the human body can produce, but it takes effort to fully harvest it. Sure you can open up I Fucking Love Science and pretend you have wonder and you're learning about great things. But you're really not, you're just consuming border-line sewer knowledge that is pumped in through your eyes to give you some half-assed easy dopamine.

We keep wondering about the youth of today being unmotivated and depressed. How they don't seem interested in anything and are just doing the bare minimum to get by. Well, there's really no wonder in there lives. The system is rigged, society is collapsing, and nothing matters. That's the message that they've learned in the absence of wonder. Kids used to dream of being astronauts, now they are more interested in being popular on social media, not because being astronauts isn't fucking cool, but rather because it seems to be a hopeless task. What? You're going to work your whole life to join NASA, then get bumped by a diversity hire on a project that does nothing for the advancement of mankind? Yeah. That's not the future anyone meaningful wants. I honestly can't blame the new generation for not wanting to work and succeed in this society. Even my own sense of wonder has been stripped to the bone and I'm rather Robinson Crusoe-like in my life compared to others my age.

This is a problem that will truly only worsen the more technologically integrated we are. Humans thrive off of the unknown as much as we fear it. We're discovers, adventurers, and conquerors, not burger flippers and office workers. How do we fix it without blowing it all up and "returning to monke"? I have no clue at this point. The society that we live in no longer looks to the horizon, but only at the nearest lighted piece of glass. As the saying goes "Born too late to explore the world, born too early to explore the universe." And from what I see the powers that be have nothing but a vested interest in making sure we never explore the universe. The cat would be out of the bag at that point. Nations and economies would be reshaped. Cultures would be rebuilt, battlefields would be remade, and those in control would have to fight like all hell to retain their power. Obviously, that's not very profittable to them.