“We are losing the hallmark of our species, the central feature of the human spirit – our sense of wonder.” This is the conclusion of the noted biological archaeologist, Melvin Konner, in a passage from his book, The Tangled Wing. Dr. Konner suggests that, at this juncture in the evolutionary cycle, the human spirit is insufficiently developed.
If early humanity had a sense of the mystery and awe and wonder to their lives, over the ages since, we have either lost or misplaced that “hallmark of our species.” Konner places an emphasis on re-capturing that sense of wonder if we are to further human development and work towards achieving our fullest human potential.
I couldn’t agree more.
In recent sermons I have attempted to emphasize our need to slow down in our busy lives, to find moments for reflection and centering, and to reconnect with that feeling of reverence for the amazing gift of life.
And I do recognize that this is not a particularly easy task. Daily are we surrounded by the defeating news that floods our thoughts and our emotions – of a crazy, often incomprehensible inhumanity going on throughout the world that we read and hear about. And it is not just the reports of bombing death, destruction and war, but it is also of the inequity, the poverty, and the human propensity to turn to the baser sides of our humanity.
It is not as easy as it sounds, given the worst of humanity that we read about. But perhaps it is precisely because of all the terrible news we are exposed to, that the need to recapture a centering sense of wonder to life becomes all the more important and needed.
When I lived in Maine I discovered the poetry of Phillip Booth. Over the intervening years since that discovery, Phillip Booth has become one of my favorite poets. In a poem which Booth calls “To Think,” he reminds us that after the Big Bang when “the universe that we know” got started, had there been a fraction less expansion, the universe would have collapsed – a fraction more, and gravity would not have held the stars. But then living stuff came along, and consciousness – the biggie that nobody understands – consciousness evolved.
And Phillip Booth, sitting in his ocean front cottage Downeast wondered: “Suppose we human beings are the only truly conscious critters in the entire universe? What reason have we to imagine that anyone might imagine us?
Then he goes on: “Who, for goodness sake, until we invented God, who could believe? We love to believe . . . we have to believe . . . we love.
But to think: After we go, in the last millisecond, when the planet will be beyond wonder – without wonder, what we were ever about?”
That is a question well worth our reflection. Without wonder, what ARE we about? I would maintain that wonder is at the soul of religion and it is religion that gives us to know what we are about. We feel it. Intuit it. And wonder opens us up to it; opens us to a sense of the spirit and a sense of the religious!
Where do you find wonder in your days? Discovering it, naming it, and appreciating it – give it some thought. Doing so can help us reclaim that hallmark of our humanity.