When most people think of marvel, they think of a wrinkly chinned, purple destroyer of the universe with a bejeweled golden gauntlet, or a super genius that flies around in a hyper advanced red and yellow metal suit, or a long golden haired muscly god that uses a magic hammer to thwart his enemies.
But before a comic book company co-opted the word marvel and started pumping out tired and dull cash grab blockbuster movies, the word marvel had an entire meaning of its own.
From Merriam Webster Dictionary, the definition of marvel is "to become filled with surprise, wonder, or amazed curiosity". In a world where technology has become so good at masking the incredible complexity behind all the devices, products, and services that we use everyday, it seems we have partially lost our ability to marvel.
Alright, definitions are cool and all, but the best way to get a real intuitive sense of marveling is to think about nature.
You have probably felt it before when you are staring out at a magnificent sunset. The reds, oranges, yellows, and pinks paint the sky as that shiny orb slowly descends behind the horizon, and you can't help but think, "Whoa...this is incredible." You feel like you want to cry because it's so beautiful (or maybe that's just me 😭).
That's what marveling is. It's that feeling you get when you realize there is something bigger than you, and you are just lucky to experience it. Marveling is powered by raw emotion. Marveling is infused with curiosity and wonder. I'd say that my definition of marveling is to actually appreciate the deep complexity of our lives that has been so simplified for us.
Marveling: Next Level Gratitude
My old friend gratitude. A wonderful and supportive companion. I'm sure you have heard of gratitude and being grateful for the things you have in your life. I know when I think of gratitude, I imagine a cozy warm family sitting down in prayer over the delicious meals resting neatly in front of them...a real Taster's Choice moment.
And maybe you know that studies show being grateful has several health benefits including: better sleep, better relationships, and decreased depression. Practicing gratitude is great. I'm totally on board with it. It certainly can bring you these potential benefits. But I also think it is so easy to be perfunctory when practicing gratitude, which is just a fancy way to say you are just "mailing it in".
It's easy to "practice gratitude" by saying, "Oh, I'm grateful for this or for that," without thinking too much about it; you just say the words without any emotion. But practicing gratitude is only impactful if there is emotion behind it, otherwise it falls as flat as Ronaldo's washboard abs.
That's where marveling comes in. It's next level gratitude. It's like gratitude's big brother. And that's because when you marvel, you actually have to stop and really appreciate the things you have at a deeper level. You can't get away with just saying the words like a lifeless robot devoid of a soul.
Denny's: A Marvelous Example (see what I did there?)
Imagine you are sitting down to a nice breakfast of coffee, eggs, bacon, and pancakes at your local Denny's. Yep, that's right folks, I have just described the classic Denny's Grand Slam (hands down best breakfast food in my not so humble opinion).
Now, you could half-heartedly say, "I'm grateful for this meal," and then move on with your life. That would be fine. You could also take a moment to think a little deeper and realize that the coffee comes from beans grown in Colombia, the eggs comes from local farmers in your hometown, the bacon comes from pigs raised in Brazil, and the wheat to make the pancakes comes from China.
Then, you could also realize that there are factories that crush the beans into coffee and ground the wheat into flour so you don't have to.
And then, you could see that all of those products are shipped across the world on boats and trains and airplanes and large semi trucks to your hometown, so you don't have to gather them yourself.
THEN, the fine people at Denny's cook up everything for you, bring it to you hot and ready on a plate, and clean up after you, so you can avoid the kitchen entirely.
And the crazy thing is a Grand Slam at Denny's cost like 10 bucks! You get a globally sourced meal grown, processed, delivered, and prepared for you for practically nothing. Do you realize how hectic that is?!
Seriously, mind blown!
Do you think a person a few hundred years ago (or three great grandads ago on the old folks scale) would not gladly pay a small pittance like that to avoid having to toil away in the soil for hours, days, weeks, and months on end growing and harvesting their own food? Only once you really step back and look at what goes into the things we take for granted everyday can you truly appreciate and be grateful for them. Now you're marveling baby!
And you don't have to limit your marveling to only physical objects.
I could do this all day for things like:
- friendships (there are almost 8 billion people on earth and you haven't met most of them, yet somehow you met your best friend, what's the probability on that?)
- smartphones (cat videos being transmitted like magic through the air at the speed of light through buildings and mountains to the palm of your hand nearly instantaneously...literally magic)
- or something as simple as a thought (like hello you are the only known conscious being in the universe, the ONLY one...wild).
How to Practice Marveling
So here's how you can start to practice marveling to take your gratitude to Avenger level proportions and get all the enhanced benefits that proper gratitude (i.e. marveling) brings.
1. Set a time everyday to marvel for 3 minutes.
Put that as a reminder in your phone, so it pops up at the same time every day. Set a timer on your phone, so you know when 3 minutes is up.
2. Think of something. Literally anything.
Could be a friend, or an object, or just something that exists. It doesn't really matter because if you think deeply enough there is really nothing in existence that you can't marvel at.
3. Ask yourself illuminating questions like:
- What had to happen for this to come into being?
- What are all the parts that go into this?
- What are all the things under the surface that make this thing possible?
Once you start answering these questions, you will begin to see the incredible complexity that makes up a person, a pencil, or even the period at the end of this sentence.
4. Marvel away
Feel those powerful emotions of wonderment, curiosity and deep, deep gratitude flow through you. Notice how it improves your mood and just makes you feel better even after only 3 minutes.
Once you start marveling regularly, you can't help but feel more powerful emotions and genuine wonderment, and only then can you truly experience gratitude. So marvel on, mafiosos. Let me know in the comments how it worked out for you.