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The Dying Art of Observation & Inquiry

The Dying Art of Observation & Inquiry

I am writing from the plane as I leave the islands of Galapagos after a retreat like none other. I could go on about the diversity of landscape, the incredible animals that have not developed a fear of humans, etc…and if you are interested, check out the pictures on Facebook (soon to be on my website) it was an incredible trip!

For now, having been in the natural world for a week and not having a smart phone at the tip of my fingers has shed light on a soon to be forgotten art…the skill of observation and inquiry.

With technology right at our fingertips, it is so easy to search on the internet for an instant answer to almost any question. A few key words, not even, since we get autofill text, and Shri Google supplies the answer in record time. Although this has its benefits, it also limits our capacity to learn through observation, and be in a state of curiosity and wonderment.

In the Galapagos, Darwin’s legacy of observation and evolutionary theory is embedded in the journey of discovery. Many questions came up on our boat and land excursions. For example, “Why are the blue-footed boobies’ feet blue?”, “Why do sea lions float belly up on water?” or “Why do our fingers and toes wrinkle after being in water?” When these came up, we would slow down, observe through all our senses of smell, taste, sight, touch, sound and vibration to interact and converse with the environment in a different way.

Often, hypothesis were made and more questions would surface. If we really wanted to know, we could ask our naturalist, who would first point out what scientists observed that lead them to their conclusions. Other times, no conclusions were reached and the residual sense of child-like curiosity was the reward. The gift of not knowing. 

Here’s a challenge for you: Next time a question arises, resist the urge to google it right away. Give yourself time to wonder about it. Pause, notice, feel. Observe. Engage your 5 senses. Call upon the wisdom that you have to uncover the mystery or enjoy the delight of the mystery itself.

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Alice Hong

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