Wednesday, August 20, 2008
And the wonder of it all
Brennan Manning is one of my favourite authors, he tells the story of a Jewish Rabbi called Abraham Joshua Heschel, when very ill on his death bed he said to his closest friend "Sam, never once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. I asked for wonder and he gave it to me"
"I asked for wonder, and he gave it to me. A Philistine will stand before a Claude Monet painting and pick his nose; a person filled with wonder will stand there fighting back the tears.
By and large, our world has lost its sense of wonder. We have grown up. We no longer catch our breath at the sight of a rainbow or the scent of a rose, as we once did. We have grown bigger and everything else smaller, less impressive. We get blasé and worldly wise and sophisticated. We no longer run our fingers through water, no longer shout at the stars or make faces at the moon. Water is H2O, the stars have been classified, and the moon is not made of green cheese. Thanks to satellite Tv and jet planes, we can visit places available in the past only to a Colombus, Balboa, and other daring explorers.
There was a time in the not too distant past when a thunderstorm caused grown men to shudder and feel small. But God is being edged out of His world by science. The more we know about meteorology, the less inclined we are to pray during a thunderstorm. Airplanes now fly above, below and around them. satellites reduce them to photographs. What ignominy - if a thunderstorm could experience ignominy! reduced from theophany to nuisance.
Heschel says that today we believe all enigmas can be solved, and all wonder is nothing but "the effect of novelty upon ignorance." Certainly, the new can amaze us: a space shuttle, the latest computer game, the softest diaper. Till tomorrow, till the new becomes old, till yesterdays wonder is discarded or taken for granted. Small wonder Rabbi Heschel concluded, "As civilization advances, the sense of wonder declines.""
I was standing over an unconscious drunk tonight and looked up at the palm trees we can't ignore the pain we see but I was reminded of this passage as I gazed at these fantastic tree. I must not always look down but also take time to appreciate the wonder of it all.