Learning something new, unexpectedly, is such a delight. It’s like walking down a hall full of doors, some open and explored, some hidden, some locked, and stumbling upon a door I’ve never seen. Opening the door and looking in I see something completely unexpected, something new and interesting. It’s pure delight. Once I’ve gone through that door and fallen in love I have to find everything I can on the subject, exhausting it. I do have specific interests, but my “unexpected” finds have been as varied as the science of diving, autism, shipwrecks, string theory, forensic science (the yucky kind), thirteenth century British history, rare neurological disorders, the history of weather forecasting, etc. I haven’t worried about how any of this will assist me in daily life, and we don’t have cable so I can’t watch “Jeopardy”. My bookshelves would make some people blanch. I’ve long since ceased to care.
Loving learning is something you see in children, the ones that haven’t had it squashed out of them. A child can lie on his stomach for an hour, watching ants march back and forth across a sidewalk. When you show them how baking soda and vinegar react they react likewise. They pick up books at the library on anything.
A sense of wonder goes right along with it. How can a scientist be a good one if he has no sense of wonder? Can an astronomer stare into the heavens thinking “ho hum”? Supernovae are wonder and joy-inspiring, but so are airplanes (I love watching planes – will never ever tire of it.), trains, rainbows, thunderstorms, newborn babies, sunsets, waves at the beach, and Christmas lights. Grown-ups, of course, are not supposed to say, “Look! A train!” when alone in the car. I can explain the exclamation away as habit, but not the excitement.
I guess I don’t ever want to grow up. I’ll be that grey-haired woman, stooped and wrinkled, standing outside the airport garage, staring up into the heavens as a thousand tons of steel glide past, the sound more palpable than audible, exclaiming,
“Look at the airplane!”