On Wonder

I have often tried to capture with words the experience of seeing each of my new-born children and grandchildren. Words fail to capture the depth of thought and emotion. Such experiences are moments of wonder.

A related word for wonder would be awe. That word sadly has developed some negative connotations for me because of its use within the context of war.

To experience wonder I must pay attention. For instance, if I am running in the early morning, I may miss experiencing the wonder of a desert sunrise because I focus on my time and pace or because I dwell on being irritated with a driver who almost ran over me. I recall being out in the deep woods of Lincoln National Forest with my son Matt. He was paying attention. At one point, he directed me to pull over. We quietly got out of the car to stand in shared wonder as a herd of deer passed by.

We can certainly experience wonder as we behold greatness. Thus, I was struck with wonder as I watched Muhammad Ali “float like a butterfly, sting like a bee”. I was speechless as I watched Secretariat win a race by more than 30 lengths. I have no words to describe the experience of watching James Earl Jones perform on stage in “The Great White Hope”. I was filled with wondrous emotion as I stood before Edward Hopper’s famous painting “Nighthawks”.

But we are also rendered speechless in the presence of horror. Thus the image of the burning and collapsing towers of the World Trade Center, the images of the Pentagon aflame or plane wreckage in a remote Pennsylvania field, leave me without words. This too is wonder. To experience joyous wonder, I must allow myself openness to horrifying wonder as well.

These experiences are, I believe, profoundly spiritual in nature and, for some, provide a sense of deep connection with the God of one’s understanding. For the moments of wonder in my life, I am deeply grateful.