When someone encounters something new, beautiful or surprisingly different, she or he is seized by wonder. The perception of amazing beauty or diversity of an object or person touches and moves the „sensible matter” of the body with which humans experience the world around them and which arouses a reaction.
Wonder brings about an interruption of the everyday routine. It provokes a pause for thought, allowing reflection upon this other about which much is not yet known. Wonder thereby creates an in-between, both an interspace (between the wondering subject and this „amazing” other) and an in-between time (between the situation before the encounter with the other and afterward). Wonder causes us to be astonished at the „being different” of others and to ask ourselves what caused our astonishment, stimulating us to ask: „Who am I?” For the person struck by wonder must also think about the question „Why am I so surprised?” and what strikes them as so new, different, and unknown. Thus, not only the preconceived idea about others is destabilized, but also the perception of oneself. In both cases, wonder prevents making up one’s mind too quickly or sorting the other too quickly within the framework of the already known.
The passion of wonder is mostly discussed in context of the perception of the extraordinary, which exceeds what we are familiar with. However, as wonder is the first step into respectfully relating with others, it should be common practice in the network of everyday relations.
Thus, wonder gains a profoundly ethical dimension. It releases one subject for another and induces him or her to pause—for thought in the process of encountering and not transgress the other’s boundaries but recognize them. Wonder enables the subjects to unfold themselves in their uniqueness, entering the in-between space that is opened by wondering and engaging in an intervital dialogue about what is of interest to both.
Anne-Claire Mulder, ‘Towards a Practice of Respecting the In-Between: Condition Sine Qua Non of Living Together Peacefully’, in: Feminist Theology, 17 (2), 2013, 245-253.