AUTHOR’S NOTE: This post began life as a sermon (June 4), part of which broke off to become a newspaper column (Finger Lakes Times, June 7). Often in the Denim Spirit newspaper series, I attempt to recapture Christian or more general spiritual wisdom from a sermon, and then frame it in more secular tones for a nonreligious audience. Sometimes it actually works.
I am in a new home this spring so everything that wiggles its way out of the soil and into lush green splendor is new to my eyes. The contour, textures, and colors filling the ocean of life surrounding my house, is a pageant on parade appearing in wave after wave of blooming novelty. Each discovery nudges me back into childhood.
Remember the sensation of pioneering into the world for the first time? Every year was the first time all over again – the exhilaration of the first snow as marvelous at age seven as at age four.
Back then, when your brain was as fresh as your hands were smooth, bugs you had never seen before were a spectacle evoking joy and fear and surprise. Plants that prickled, felt velvety, or tasted sweet were singular marvels.
In that first decade, when you went from crawling to riding a bike, lounging in the grass, toes in the mud, and digging in the dirt had no down side. A snail was a mystery. A worm was a sensation. A bird with a broken wing an entire day of amazement!
What if we could somehow unload the burdens of our tired, wounded, beat-up adult blinders, and take an afternoon to wander through the ordinariness of our lives with that kind of a renewed openness and wonder? Well, if we did, we might, maybe even probably would, bump into the sacred.
The same life force that created and imbues the most distant star is also as close as our most intimate love. An encounter with that small but stunning insight should be enough to make us stutter – drool even.
One thing we know from recent behavioral and neuro-science research is that human beings perceive what we expect to see, and very often look past even an obvious object in the field around us simply because we do not expect it to be there. The fewer assumptions we make when we go looking, and the more open we are to being surprised and astonished, the more we will see.
Digging up long planted assumptions is hard work.
Rooting around in the soil of our psyche and memory is fraught with anguish, pain, and tenderness. Yet that is precisely our work if we wish to be open to mystery, sensitive to the presence of the unquantifiable, and awed by the simultaneous imminence and transcendence of the holy.
What is taking place in my yard these days is a marvel, but the presence of what imbues it all is beyond words.