by Christine Sine
Sometimes I’ve believed as many as six impossible things before breakfast.
So says Alice in Lewis Carroll’s classic Alice in Wonderland. To a child like Alice, the world is an amazing place with miracles at every turn. We watch their expressions of awe and wonder with delight. The make us smile, they make us laugh but few of us take them seriously.
I have had to rethink that attitude since reading John Pridmore’s fascinating book Playing with Icons: The Spirituality of Recalled Childhood, in which he analyses a rich variety of people’s memories of their childhoods. He believes that our decline in capacity to notice the miracles around us as we grow older is a failure of the spirit as well as of the senses. He argues that by the time we become adults we have lost our child’s eye and no longer experience everyday objects with our senses or capture them in their true light because they have now become familiar and commonplace. It takes a rare event like a solar eclipse to stir within us the spirit touching awe and wonder kids experience every day.
Pridmore points out that when Jesus drives out the traders and money-changers in the temple, healing the blind and the lame, the authorities get angry but the children cheer because they alone can see the significance of the wonderful things he is doing. Jesus reminds the authorities that “out of the mouths of infants and nursing babies you have prepared praise for yourself.(Matthew 21:14-16.)
Research indicates that experiencing these magical feelings also changes how we approach our lives. It can make us more satisfied, less self-involved, less likely to feel starved for time, more grateful and more likely to help others. Even brief experiences of awe, such as being amid beautiful tall trees, led people to feel less narcissistic and entitled and more attuned to the common humanity people share with one another.
Unfortunately the research also suggests that we are awe deprived. We spend more time at work and less outdoors. We are less inclined to attend art galleries, live music, theatre and museums. Even our children are having their arts and music programs dismantled and their unfettered outdoor time cut for more resume building activities. Not only are we suffering as a result, but our faith and our concern for others are suffering too. Some of the leading researchers looking at this subject believe that chronic awe deprivation has had a hand in a broad societal shift making us more individualistic, more self-focused, more materialistic and less connected to others. They say we need to actively seek out awe-inspiring moments in our every day lives.
What Is Your Response?
When was the last time you experienced a sense of wonder at the world around you or sat in awe at God’s greatness? Perhaps it is time to reenter the awe inspiring world of childhood where everything is a miracle. And perhaps it is time to rethink our spiritual practices to make this possible.
Watch the video below and then consider setting aside time each day this week to reflect on the miracles that the day has unveiled. Sit quietly in the presence of God and take some deep breaths in and out. Close your eyes and walk through the day reimagining everything you did.
Start with the dawning of the day and the miracle moment of the rising sun as it’s light touched the sky and illuminated your world. Think about the miracle of the flowers unfurling in your garden, and the bees and birds flitting from plant to plant. Look into the eyes of a child and remind yourself of the miracle of your own formation. As you sit in the presence of God what else comes to mind? Make a list of at least six things that suddenly are unveiled to you as miracles that you have taken for granted in the day that has passed. Offer a prayer of praise and thanksgiving to God.