Ten Things That Astonish Me

photo by Mitchell Kaneshkevich

Thanks to PS Pirro for the prompt for this post, asking us what still astonishes us; here’s my list:

  1. The realization that everything we think of as real is either just an appearance (like separate ‘things’ in space and time) or just a mental fabrication (like our ‘selves’). Scientists keep discovering this to be true, and even they find it too astonishing to believe, and keep looking for a different answer.
  2. The staggering diversity of complex life — from bats to jellyfish to water-bears to sharks to seeds. And birds!
  3. The complexity and resilience of the human (or any creature’s) body. And the fact that it’s not a ‘thing’ but a borderless complicity, a trillion trillion inseparable things, endlessly, coherently interacting.
  4. Fungi.
  5. Music — its effect on us, what makes it ‘music’, and the mysterious process of its composition.
  6. The evocative power of light — firelight, street-lamps, candlelight, the light of the sun (especially at dawn, at dusk, and reflected), the moon and the stars.
  7. Gaia — the evolution and complicity of all life on earth.
  8. The macroscopic and microscopic universe, which, I have to believe, are infinite. Go as far or as deep as you like, you’ll never find the end. It’s turtles all the way down, and all the way up.
  9. Electricity. (Or more precisely, electromagnetism.) We have no idea how it ‘works’. Neither do the eels who’ve employed it for seven million years, or the birds who’ve navigated by it for 150 million.
  10. Imagery — reflections in water, prints in the sand, photographs, and all forms of art that conjure up images — that ‘imageine’.

Yes, I know, nothing really in this list specifically about the human species, or its ‘soul’ or ‘spirit’ or mental capacity or accomplishments or propensity to fall in love and persevere and make stuff. I am undoubtedly a misanthrope, but I see nothing extraordinary or astonishing about homo sapiens. Even our destructiveness is unremarkable.

But these more-than-human things — astonishing!

What would be on your list? No sarcasm please, though I’m sure it’s tempting; plenty of time for that later. Of human accomplishments, what would you rate as most astonishing? Language and how we’ve spread it? Some medical advance? The arrowhead and other weaponry? The control of fire and water?

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8 Responses to Ten Things That Astonish Me

  1. realist says:

    And who is the “I” who feel them.
    (please don’t tell me that nonduality spares you the sensations that ordinary people seem to have and talk about)

  2. Ray says:

    The fact that there are extremely complex systems that have evolved a property (they name it consciousness or something) that enables the system to reflect on itself and is so disappointed with the result that it wants to transcend these system boundaries, which it tragically realizes is impossible.

  3. Peter says:

    Lately the James Webb telescope has been revealing more of out astonishing Cosmos.

  4. Peter Webb says:

    Astonishing is the fact that humans can’t effect change to save themselves from themselves. It could be called a biologic inevitability, but it still amazes me.

  5. Peter Webb says:

    Sorry I guess my comment could be considered sarcasm. So today I read that scientists have discovered that bees contribute to electrostatic energy in the air. As much as that of a thunderstorm just in a swarm of bees. Now that’s incredible
    Science Magazine 2022

  6. Kate Moriarty says:

    The wonder of it; so much more than an emotion. Unfashionably, I believe in God, and I believe love is from God and that God “is” love. Catch phrases? Not if one sits with those ideas for a while – a lifetime – until they become everything.

  7. Felipe says:

    About the “Scientists keep discovering this to be true”. Just today I saw below linked article published on a Science website and I immediately thought that it basically confirms the “No-Doer”. Like you said somewhere else, Science is slowly but steady confirming what we basically already knew, that we have no say in what we do even though we think otherwise.

  8. Brutus says:

    I would reinforce a couple of yours but you asked for ours. I have just one, which is arguably the reverse of what you intend: man’s unbounded capacity to knowingly inflict suffering on others — human and nonhuman.

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