Stop Before Siri: Making Room for Wonder

My cousin’s wife is funny. She is so funny that she writes for Jimmy Kimmel and the New Yorker and has nearly 200,000 followers on Twitter. It turns out that her cousin’s nine year old daughter, Alice, is also funny. As Bess tweeted, “Alice has been quietly and masterfully slaying the @NewYorker’s caption contest, and it’s pure delight.” Alice’s captions for New Yorker cartoons are, indeed, brilliant and have been well received with over 115,000 likes on Twitter as well as some local and national news mentions. I encourage you to stop reading and take a look. While Alice is undoubtedly good, I also want to applaud Alice’s parents. What a fun way to inspire creativity.

You don’t have to be a New Yorker subscriber to bring a little more wonder to the dining room table. For those less into comedy, the New York Times has a weekly “What’s Going On in This Picture” blog post, which encourages students to hypothesize and discuss a Times photo stripped of its caption. Both exercises encourage us to notice, to wonder, and to be creative.  Both also provide some sort of closure with an “answer” in the form of a winning caption in the New Yorker and the true caption revealed later in the week on the Times website.

My boys have discovered that Siri has a lot of answers. When we don’t know the answer – how many miles is it to Mimi and Pops in Florida? – they encourage me to ask Siri. A former colleague of mine, ironically the technology director, told me that they had a family rule to guess three times before using Siri. Having so much information at our fingertips – or our voice tips? – makes it harder to wonder.  

Why wonder if you can just know? With wonder we practice observing, drawing inferences, and estimating. We wonder because we will not always know the answer. There are, we have to remind ourselves and our children, questions that Siri can’t answer. These are the questions of their future. These are the fun questions. The more we wonder, the better we will be at solving the questions that Siri can’t.

While the New Yorker is not for me – can anyone keep up with that weekly pace of things you want to and should read? – I am going to try to bring more wonder to our home. I am excited to stop before asking Siri and make a little more room for wonder.  

Update: Yes, you don’t have to be a subscriber to try the New Yorker caption contest.