A very astonishing place

Drew was thrilled to look at the world from behind a waterfall. Westlake Park Fountain, near Pike Place Market, Seattle, 1993

Drew was thrilled to look at the world from behind a waterfall.
Westlake Park Fountain, near Pike Place Market, Seattle, 1993

“If you can sustain your interest in what you’re doing, you’re an extremely fortunate person. What you see very frequently in people’s professional lives, and perhaps in their emotional life as well, is that they lose interest in the third act. You sort of get tired, and indifferent, and, sometimes, defensive. And you kind of lose your capacity for astonishment — and that’s a great loss, because the world is a very astonishing place…What I feel fortunate about is that I’m still astonished, that things still amaze me.”
Milton Glaser

As enthusiastic as I’ve always been, I have to admit that Glaser’s words are relevant to my own life.  Often– especially lately– I find myself tired, indifferent, defensive, or all three, even throwing in grouchy and pessimistic as bonus categories.  I agree with Glaser that it’s a great loss to allow this to happen.

Over the years I’ve been teased on more than one occasion for being too easily impressed, too eager, too excited about things other people find ordinary.  I’ve never minded this; I’ve taken it as a compliment. I think the capacity for astonishment is a sign of intelligence rather than its opposite.  In my opinion, anyone who is constantly too busy to be astonished is not all that bright in any of the ways that really count.

Even the most upbeat among us do get exhausted, and disheartened, and sad.  These states are normal, but I think we must be vigilant to keep them in the passenger’s seat and not the driver’s seat.  Sometimes, we need to let other people drive while we reflect, refresh and recharge.  And we need to cultivate a working knowledge of what shakes us out of our low moods, and prioritize this crucial form of self-care.  The means of rediscovering our enchantment with life will be different from person to person, but we can learn a lot from each other by sharing our spontaneous moments of joy and pointing to the rays of sun that break through on even the worst days.

Right now, I’m noticing the beauty of green in the trees and grass, and how it never fails to calm me.  I’m hearing the sweet chirping of the birds. I’m savoring the last few sips of my second mug of tea this morning as I plan to make a third– what flavor will I choose this time? I’m glancing around at the many tokens of love and affection that have been strategically placed where I can see them every day. These things, and many others, sustain my interest in this astonishing life.

How about you? Are you still astonished at life?  When your enthusiasm flags, do you have any reliable ways to generate fresh energy?

This post was first published seven years ago today. The original post, comments and photo are linked, along with two other related posts, below. These links to related posts, and their thumbnail photos, do not appear in the blog feed; they are only visible when viewing the individual posts by clicking on each one. I have no idea why, nor do I know how they choose the related posts. That’s just the way WordPress does things.


  1. Chris

    Hi Julia,

    Nice post! I, too, can easily get excited over the most simple things, which can seem mundane to others. Reminds me of a scene from one of my favorite movies, ‘Coming to America’. Hope the link will work from WordPress; if not, just copy and paste.

    Hope all is OK, and the outlook is improving! Cheers!

    • Hi Chris, yes, that Eddie Murphy character was so innocent and lovable. This clip reminded me of another funny (but unfortunately foul-language-dependent) clip from that same movie, when he first walks out on his balcony, exclaiming loudly with joy, and a neighbor curses him– which he mistakes as a greeting. “Yes, yes!,” he replies excitedly, “&^%$ you too, my friend!” It’s so important not to lose that childlike wonder, and I think that’s one reason for the great success of that movie.

  2. Good morning, Julia!
    I love the thought that “anyone who is constantly too busy to be astonished is not all that bright in any of the ways that really count.” It sounds like something that Antoine de Saint-Exupéry or C. S. Lewis might write, and I think them wise and perceptive. 😃
    We are finally having sprng weather here. I even had a friend over for a picnic lunch yesterday.
    I wish you a lovely weekend!

    • Wow, what a great compliment to even be mentioned in the same paragraph with those two favorites, each of whom connects with me on several personal levels. Thank you!

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