We typically equate a surprise with a feeling of delight at the discovery of something unexpected. But surprise can also mean being unsettled in the face of unfortunate events. I like this grounded meaning of the word. It connotes something that leaves us stirred, like a call to be more curious. It compels is to ask more questions and revel not just in the answers but in the inquiries themselves.
Rilke puts this beautifully when he speaks of living the questions. We ask when we don’t know or when we are caught unaware. There is a sense of wonder in the midst of a surprise and this leaves our imagination running. It compels us to ask what is it, why is this so, how come? There may be various permutations of this existential query but at the heart of it is a desire to know more and also do more.
Surprise compels us to act. We cannot unsee it because it has lit a spark within us. The inner workings of our being reverberate and won’t keep still until we find out more or do something. And even if we don’t the asking is the act in itself. We berate kids sometimes for just doing without thinking. Actually they are, thinking with curiosity, surprised with how the world works and just flowing and moving with this wonder. So just like a child, let’s open ourselves up to being surprised everyday.