Wonder and Astonishment at the World

Last week I wrote a blog about donkeys. “Coincidentally” while doing spiritual reading this week, I came across a reference to Nikos Kaszantkis’s novel Zorba the Greek: One day Zorba was riding on a donkey with his boss. As they met a traveler on another ass, Zorba’s eyes were transfixed on the stranger. Chided for gawking, Zorba proclaimed his awe at the fact that there are such things as donkeys in the world. Author Wilkie Au commented, “To view reality with wonder is to see ordinary things as donkeys with a sense of astonishment—as though seeing them for the first time.”

So many marvelous things in the world we take for granted and hardly notice. We walk down a street and don’t give a thought to the butterfly flitting by or the perky dandelion on a lawn. But every once in a while we are drawn to contemplate a feature of creation and our heart is moved to thank and praise its creator. When is the last time you looked at the stars placed in the night sky for your pleasure, really looked? Have you gazed at the tree in your backyard, noticing its shape, its bark, and its leaves; or the bright, delicate flower on your table? Seeing things with “real-eyes” takes time and concentration.

This summer is a good time to visit the zoo and be amazed by the variety of animals or take a slow walk in the woods to cherish mushrooms, violets, and oaks. Or just sit quietly and listen to a stirring piece of music. Let God speak to you through his gifts of love. For that matter, you might marvel at your own body. Look in the mirror at your eyes and marvel at their color, their power to see, and the lashes that protect them. Take off your shoes and wiggle your toes, reflecting on how they help you keep your balance and the ingenuity of nails on the end of them. Isn’t it amazing that we can think a tune in our head and our lips will form exactly the right way to let us whistle it?

This reflection reminds me of the play Our Town in which the dead Emily is able to relive her twelfth birthday. She concludes, “Do any human beings ever realize life while they live it?” The theme of the play is that while on earth we are blind and ignorant when it comes to appreciating the fact that we exist.

Mary Oliver’s poem “Mindful” begins, “Every day I see or hear something that more or less kills me with delight.”

Dag Hammerskjold wrote, “We die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.”

Here is a prayer practice that may turn into a mystical experience:  Find something ordinary—a blade of grass, a paperclip, a squirrel, a glass of water—and ponder it until you marvel at it. Then let your heart love the One who allowed it to be and allowed you to experience it.

Just came across this:  A French writer’s dying words—”What a beautiful life I’ve had. Too bad I didn’t notice it sooner.”

When have you suddenly seen something in bright clarity? What was your response? When have you been “killed with delight?”





  1. Vincent Winslow on July 12, 2019 at 7:30 pm

    Beautifully articulated.

  2. Sue on July 12, 2019 at 8:35 pm

    “Killed with delight” was just recently with the 4th of July fireworks.
    But my real biggie was when we went to the McDonald Observatory in Fort Davis, Texas. You lay on benches and see a catrillion stars!!!
    And, then, the Hubble went by…. Also saw Saturn through the telescope.
    Talk about awe inspiring. There’s just no words for it.
    We need a nudge once in awhile to stop and smell the roses.

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