(Originally posted February 2012)
I believe it was Aristotle who said that wonder is the beginning of philosophy and Emerson who contended that stars are the daily bread of the soul. Great minds seem to make time for musing on life’s mystery.
As I write these words, beams from the sunrise are streaming from behind my shoulder. There were ages when the entire village would have risen to greet this miracle, but on this morning, the entire village seems to be dutifully entering the ramp of the nearby interstate highway. I can see people move their visors to block the irritating rays of the morning sun. I can imagine them mindlessly turning on the car radio, and moving like granules of an amoebae into the heart of the city.
This absence of wonder produces an enormous poverty in our lives. Nothing else in life quite fills that void. For many, the world seems to have lost its luster, but it is our own eyes that have grown dull. “The one who cannot wonder,” Carlyle claimed, “is but a pair of Spectacles behind which there is no eye.”
It is not enough to console ourselves with miraculous stories of how some religious hero calmed the storm or was lifted to the sky. Our souls hunger to experience miracles of our own. And, in fact, miracle stories were intended to meet just that need. It is not that Jesus was physically lifted into the sky, but that the minds of the disciples were lifted to see Christ everywhere. It’s not that Jesus changed the weather pattern, but that the disciples learned to see the peace of God in the middle of their storms. The stories of scripture were not written to teach use about magical people and places somewhere else. They are intended to inspire us so we can move to greet this day with reverence and awe.
It is a poor imagination which can only see the miraculous in violations of nature. If we go out to the nearest woods and really listen, we will soon be overwhelmed by the intelligence expressed in that spot. Looking in the eyes of a beloved pet, we soon feel an eerie sense of intelligence that transcends our ordinary perspective. To wonder at such things is the very food of our souls.