WOW and Gee-Whiz Responses Belong in the Toolbox of Inquisitive Observers

 

On the road…again!

Afghanistan to Zambia

Chronicles of a Footloose Forester

By Dick Pellek

 

WOW and Gee-Whiz Responses Belong in the Toolbox of Inquisitive Observers

 

When you see a Metasequoia glyptostroboides growing next to a red maple tree on your sister’s lawn in Tennessee, it kind of makes your day.  And when you finally touch the branches of a Zyziphus jujuba tree in the African Sahel region, you know that you can now fill your pockets with its healthy berries that will also help to quench your thirst. Learning about exotic trees and shrubs may seem like doing homework; until that day when the WOW factor in nature is in front of you; and you are staring at something you had heretofore only read about.  The same thing applies to discovering other entities in nature that we may not have been aware of, until that very moment.  For example, spying a fossil in a rock face; or sighting a beaver within the city limits of an urban community ought to bring on the WOW outburst; or the more comprehending Gee-Whiz.

We could always take things for granted, but that would be a mistake.  One part of the unspoken credo of the inquisitive observer is to not take anything for granted, lest we dismiss important details; or not appreciate a rare find when we stumble upon it. The moment of discovery may lead to the WOW response; but it should not be totally unexpected if we are diligent observers operating with the fundamental principles of inductive and deductive reasoning.  Looking for some of the suggestive clues helps, buoyed by a constant awareness of possible contributing factors and circumstances.  As another example, there are only a few pockets of Cedar of Lebanon trees extant in nature but touching one in its natural habitat still calls forth the WOW response, as it should. 

Although some famed detectives and investigative researchers are probably born with superior observation skills; far more competent detectives come out from training programs.  It does not take a college education to be a good observer; but it does take a willingness to use the tools that are in the standard toolbox of any investigator: sharp eyes; keen ears; attention to detail; a discriminating sense of smell; etc.  The skillful use of those tools should not be taken for granted, just because nearly all of us possess those tools at birth. If we don’t take the pains to develop them; and then keep them sharp; we will not distinguish ourselves from the ordinary.  And we may never enjoy our own personal "Eureka" moment. 

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We shouldn’t take each other for granted, either.  Just as there are WOW factors in nature, there are Gee-Whiz things about people that shouldn’t be overlooked.  Give due credit to the rare individuals in the world of people who are genuine Gee-Whiz celebrities; but don’t forget that others whom we may know personally probably possess WOW factor traits that should qualify them for honorary mention as Gee-Whiz personalities.  A good observer may already know that; but chances are that most people who take things for granted, do not.  The incurious, the pre-occupied; the uncommitted; and the indifferent—all might claim to know the neighbors, for example; but most of us do not know enough about them to understand why and how they are different.  The strangers on the bus probably have enough mystique about them that, if the truth be known, would elicit a WOW or two, followed by a contemplative Gee-Whiz.  Finding out starts with honing the tools of an inquisitive observer. 

 

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