Growing Together in Wonder
In more traditional expressions of religion, a sense of wonder may derive from the supernatural or a magical understanding of the miraculous. In our naturalistic faith, the sense of wonder is found in the everyday and commonplace. We speak of the “direct experience of that transcending mystery and wonder, affirmed in all cultures, which moves us to a renewal of the spirit and an openness to the forces that create and uphold life.” This transcending mystery and wonder is experienced in many ways – when we gaze upon a beautiful vista, when we are caressed by the excited touch of a lover, when our ears tune in to the songs of the birds or the melodious strains of a violin, when the poems of the heart tumble from our lips, or when the golden silence of creation surrounds us in meditation or prayer…wonder surrounds us. We are bathed in the phenomena and experiences that provoke our sense of wonder and awe, if we would only take the time to pay attention. As we wend our way through life, let us ask not for success but for wonder, assured that we will receive it in abundance. The universe is simply bursting with it! -Stefan Jonasson
Reading for Reflection
An excerpt from “Wondering and Wandering” by Rev. Victoria Stafford in Quest: A Monthly for Religious Liberals, December 2014
Nothing else on earth that we know of—nothing else in the universe that we know so far—looks at the stars or the land, at their own existence or their own face in the mirror, with questions and terror and reverence and awe. We’re the part of all this that laughs and loves and notices, the part of the universe that can scratch its head in amazement, the part that falls on its knees in humility, in prayer. That’s our job in this world, our unique calling, perhaps the most important work we do.
Our calling is not just to notice, but to make a sustained and sustaining response, to act like a god. Our calling is alchemy—to transform wonder into something that endures even after the moment of wonderment passes. The calling is to transform awe into some kind of commitment, some kind of promise to stay awake and keep alive the change that took place in you, the emotion that took hold of you, the question that astounded you when you saw the star, or the flash of a cardinal’s wing, or whatever it was that amazed you. This is the practice of staying awake…
We’re stopped in our tracks every day by amazement. How could there be so many stars, so many snowflakes, so many gestures of goodwill? Every day you see it: courage and kindness, typically in increments as tiny and fleeting as crystals of snow, common as dirt. But they accumulate, they seep into the groundwater, these gestures of kindness and courage, human creativity to rival that of any creator-God, shaping the world just as powerfully…
To stay awake, past the moment of speechlessness to speaking, past the moment of terror or beauty, which comes in a flash and then fades. To stay awake, open eyes and open heart, open mind and hands, and somehow shift amazement into art, into music, into stories of hope, stories of outrage, resolutions, revolutions, legislation. To make amazement into sacrament and holy scripture—something useful and generous and real—that is the holy work. To make wonder into something real, to make it the source of all your commitments, the reason behind every action.
Let yourself be moved to tears—then make something of that movement, something concrete. Make a whole religion of it, a way of being and seeing in the world that is not random, but rather deliberate and disciplined—a way of being that befits a co-creator of the universe, the part of the universe that brings goodness and the light that is hope. Out of wonder, make stories and music and justice. Make love and prayers and real peace.
We have seen and known amazing things. Our response could be a compassion to which we are so committed that in time (very soon—perhaps a million years, or less) it could almost feel instinctive, it could almost be pre-emptive. Born of wonder, our love of this world and each other could be a wonder in itself.
Reflect upon an experience of wonder in your life and how it has influenced your actions.
When despair grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children’s lives may be,
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief. I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting for their light. For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.