Wednesday, December 5, 2012

"Not once in my life did I ask God for success or wisdom or power or fame. 
I asked him for wonder and he gave it to me."
- Joshua Heschel, Rabbi.

By and large, our world has lost its sense of wonder. A normal person can walk into the greatest art museum of the nation and be more absorbed in their phone than the history surrounding them. A person filled with wonder will be fighting back the tears, recognizing how irretrievable the past really is, how we are just the latest dots on the timeline. We have grown up. We are self absorbed. Our breath no longer catches at the sight of a rainbow. We no longer stop to appreciate a sunset or go out of our way to wake and enjoy a sunrise. We have grown bigger and everything else has grown smaller, less impressive. We like to think that we're sophisticated and wise in the ways of the world. We no longer marvel at the miracle that is water, lie in the grass, finding shapes in the clouds, or gaze at the infinite sky of stars. Water is H2O, you can not walk on the clouds like we all imagined as a child, and the stars have disappeared in the glare of our city lights.

We no longer marvel at the possibility of growing food from a tiny seed, or give thanks for the rain that enables this. We pick our flawless produce from under the sterilizing artificial lights of the nearest grocery store, never stopping to think of where it came from. We are so accustomed to buying prepackaged meats that we never think about the bounty of nature or the life of that animal. In our minds, food is food and it is infinite. It doesn't matter what poison is in or on it or that conventional agricultural companies are patenting our seeds, taking over our lands, and poisoning our water sources. We are much too busy to worry about those things. We want efficiency and productivity, no matter the cost. Even the miracle of giving birth has been reduced to an assembly line like event. Women labor numbly as doctors tap their watches, taking things into their own hands if the woman's schedule is not lining up with theirs. In most cases, babies are washed and wrapped and vaccinated all before meeting their mother.

Thanks to satellite television, digital cameras, and airplanes, we can visit and learn about faraway places with ease. While we can reach another country in mere hours, daring explorers used to risk and give up years of their lives to explore a land that was a rumor. There was a time in the not too distant past when a thunderstorm would cause a grown man's knees to tremble and rain was a reason for celebration! Thunder and lightning made you feel small. Airplanes now fly above, below, and around it. Satellites reduce hurricanes to photographs. The more we know about meteorology, the less inclined we are to pray during a storm. Knowledge is a marvelous things, but science has begun to be used to edge wonder out of this world. Certainly, the new can hold our attention - an iPhone app, a trendy pair of shoes showing up in the tabloids, a funny Youtube video - until tomorrow, until the new becomes old and yesterday's in becomes today's out.

As civilization advances, our sense of wonder declines. We get so preoccupied with ourselves - the words we speak, the plans and projects in our minds - that we forget to stop and live and breath. We barely notice the beauty or bounty of the world. The sounds of birds outside your window goes unnoticed or becomes a nuisance. Wild blackberries ripen and wither and apples fall to the ground and rot away. We avoid the cold and heat, refrigerating ourselves in the summer and baking ourselves in the winter. We never step outside to feel the crunch that the frozen dew covered grass makes under our feet on a winter morning. Even in the nicest of weather, windows go unopened and our homes stay sealed from flies and wind and dust. We rake up every leaf of fall as soon as it touches the ground and trim off every imperfect brand before it has a chance. We grow complacent, lead practical lives, and in doing so, miss the experiences of awe, and reverence, and wonder that our world is saturated with. We walk amid the beauty of the world, talking and thinking nonstop, and miss the panorama of colors, textures, smells, and sounds. Nature doesn't calm our troubled spirits, restore our perspective, or delight us as it should.

If I could choose any trait for my children to focus on and cultivate, it would be their sense of wonder and all that it encompasses (creativity, attention to detail, fervor for life). Wonder is innate in a child. Children stare into a star filled sky and dream of faraway places, they look out into the ocean and try to fathom the creatures it contains, and they never look back and wonder where their days went. They spend them with reckless abandonment and passion. I hope you never lose this. I hope you get your fill of this world, but always keep a hunger inside of you for adventure and knowledge. I hope you never grow complacent with life and if you do, that you have the strength to revive what is left of your wonder. When you're a child, you're a little bit of everything; scientist, dreamer, artist. Sometimes it seems like growing up means giving these things up one at a time, but it's my goal to ensure that you don't have to give any of these up. I always want you to have that liveliness. . . that Evangeline-ness that causes smiles to blossom on perfect strangers' faces. I hope you realize that the world is yours. I'm not saying this as your Mother, but as someone who has met you: you're special. Everyone who has met you knows it too. You're special in a way that is tangible and obvious and is going to take you places. So go, but don't lose yourself along the way because there isn't a single part of you that deserves to be lost.

All the Love in the Universe,


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