“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 H2 0, the stars have been classified…
There was a time in the not too distant past when a thunderstorm caused grown men to shutter and feel small… We grow complacent and lead practical lives. We miss the experience of awe, reverence, and wonder.”
Former priest and author Brennan Manning names a phenomenon that is all too common in our culture, the tendency to lose the innocence and wonder of youth as we take on the responsibilities that come with age. It is not a necessary loss, it doesn’t have to happen, but unless we become intentional about it, there is a gravitational pull that results in our becoming less capable of amazement, less inclined to be smitten by “the sight of a rainbow or the scent of a rose.”
“Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting” says poet William Wordsworth. It is as if we wander the earth in a half-awake haze, a trance-like state that leaves us unable to experience the magical nature of nature, the wonder-filled reality that is creation – and creatures. It is this state of unawareness that is sometimes referred to as Original Sin, the imperfection of the human condition.
How can we begin to awake to that which we have become unaware? How can we remember what, in our sophistication, we have forgotten? It is not a matter of the mind that will bring us to an appreciation/experience of the sacred depths of nature, ourselves, and others, it is our senses. Sensuality is the portal to the soul; earthiness is the doorway to the heavenly in our midst. “I am sensual,” claims poet Mary Oliver, “in order to be spiritual.”
For many of us, recapturing a sense of wonder requires unlearning the belief that being spiritual necessitates rising above the domain of the ordinary, of the bodily, of the often messy nature of human nature. If we are to experience again a sense of “awe, reverence, and wonder” at the beauty that surrounds us and that is us, we must loosen our grip on a strictly logical, practical, and narrowly religious perception of life.