Given how many days have elapsed since my last post, it may come as a surprise to some of my readers that I have posted at all. That, however, is not the reason for the title of this post.
While reading Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman – a book, by the way, which I thoroughly recommend – I came across the following passage:
A capacity for surprise is an essential aspect of our mental life, and surprise itself is the most sensitive indication of how we understand our world and what we expect from it.
...which has certain parallels with the quote in my sidebar:
The only appropriate state of the mind is surprise.
Speaking of surprises, I was in North Bengal recently, attending a friend's wedding. My friend had kindly arranged for a car to ferry us between the wedding venue and the guest house where we were staying, some 30 km away. The road connecting the two towns ran through the Buxa Tiger Reserve.
The driver who was taking us back to our guest house on the first night was very enthusiastic about showing us some wildlife. He took the more forested road even though, at that time of night, he was not really supposed to. When we were passing a river, he stopped the car and made us get out and listen for the sound of the 'topke shaap' (a snake which I had never heard of before). As it happens, the topke snakes were quiet that night.
As we drove on, he was saying it was too bad we weren't staying in the area much longer. If we travelled this road regularly for a couple of weeks, he said, there was a good chance we would see a wild elephant. Suddenly, he stopped mid-sentence and brought the car to a halt. We wondered if we had again entered topke snake territory, but no. Not even 30 metres away, our headlights picked out an elephant quietly crossing the road and disappearing into the jungle.