Saturday, 29 September 2012

I Still Feel the Wonder

This is one of my favourite songs... "Changing of the Light"

"...I still feel the wonder as the sky turns to fire..."

The following words by ee cummings have been floating around in my consciousness these last few days...

i thank You God for most this amazing day:
for the leaping greenly spirits of trees and a blue true dream of sky;
and for everything which is natural which is infinite which is yes

(i who have died am alive again today, and this is the sun's birthday;
this is the birth day of life and love and wings:
and of the gay great happening illimitably earth)

how should tasting touching hearing seeing breathing any
--lifted from the no of all nothing—
human merely being doubt unimaginable You?

(now the ears of my ears awake
And now the eyes of my eyes are opened)

I also love the fact that cummings hasn't used capitol letters, not even for his own name, except for two words...

" the ears of my ears awake and now the eyes of my eyes are opened..."

D. H. Lawrence once declared “The sense of wonder, that is our sixth sense and it is a natural religious sense”.

Our sixth sense is a natural religious sense, what on earth could that mean? I suspect that he is saying that the sense of wonder is something that is natural to us all and it this that sparks our natural religiousness. Viktor Frankl drew similar conclusions, with regard to our natural religiousness, claiming that we possess a will to find meaning; that in some sense we human beings are the meaning makers; that there is something within us that searches for meaning in life; that there is something that occurs when we truly see life in all its majesty; that there is something that ignites this natural religiousness within us. We are the religious animal.

We each of us seemingly have this religious impulse ingrained within us. Now of course sometimes that gets shut off and or closed down by life’s busyness and or suffering. We can all become desensitised to life from time to time, but the impulse is still there and can be reignited, even when all seems lost.

“I still feel the wonder as the sky turns to fire”

There is wonder present in all life. To see it we just need to reawaken the ears of our ears and open the eyes of eyes. Religious practise is one way of achieving this. It helps to create those Angelus moments I spoke of in the previous blog. We cynical adults need such moments to reawaken that natural childish enthusiasm and sense of wonder at life. It is no mistake that Jesus (Mark 10 vv 13-16) when speaking to his disciples told them that they needed to receive the kingdom of God like a child if they wanted to enter it. I suspect that he was talking here of the Kingdom now and not just what was to follow. He was teaching them that in order to experience that Kingdom that was already here and now they had to view life through the eyes of child; that they needed to reawaken the ears of their ears and open the eyes of their eyes; that they needed to reawaken their sense of wonder.

Prayer helps me to pay attention. Actually it does more than that; it helps me to connect to all of life. When I pray I feel that I am connecting beyond myself to the greater reality. This I believe enables me to reawaken the ears of my ears and open the eyes of my eyes. According to Thomas Heschel “to pray is to take notice of the wonder, to regain a sense of the mystery that animates all beings, the divine margin in all attainments.” I would go further than this and claim that the practise of wonder is itself a form of prayer.

Thomas Carlyle viewed wonder as the basis of worship. I see real truth is this. I believe that the purpose of worship is to reawaken, to maintain and to develop this sixth sense, this natural religiousness, this sense of wonder. One of the reasons I worship with others is to remember how to connect to that natural spirit in all life; to remember what is important in life; to connect beyond the confines of myself and then to carry that into my everyday activities. To worship is to remember, to re-bind together, this is the essence of religion.

That said I do not believe that mediators are required in order to achieve this. We can reawaken our natural religiousness, that sixth sense, that sense of wonder, alone. The nineteenth century transcendentalists brought this insight to western religion. They said that we do not need clergy, priests or religion itself to mediate our experience of God or the truth; we do not need the mediation of others in order to find meaning. They said that it was the inalienable right and duty of every soul to approach God directly. In fact they went further and said that there was no other way to know the holy or Divine other than to experience it directly through the creation, through nature.

Could this be true? Can the sense of wonder only truly be awoken through nature? Well personally I'm not convinced of this. That said I do suspect that if you cannot connect to the divine through nature it is unlikely that you will you will be able to connect to it through worship and words.

I recently came across the following words by Wendal Berry.

“I don't think it is enough appreciated how much an outdoor book the Bible is. It is a "hypaethral book," such as Thoreau talked about - a book open to the sky. It is best read and understood outdoors, and the farther outdoors the better. Or that has been my experience of it. Passages that within walls seem improbable or incredible, outdoors seem merely natural. This is because outdoors we are confronted everywhere with wonders; we see that the miraculous is not extraordinary but the common mode of existence. It is our daily bread. Whoever really has considered the lilies of the field or the birds of the air and pondered the improbability of their existence in this warm world within the cold and empty stellar distances will hardly balk at the turning of water into wine - which was, after all, a very small miracle. We forget the greater and still continuing miracle by which water (with soil and sunlight) is turned into grapes.”

I suspect that this applies to all religion and philosophy, which can never be fully understood or experienced within the confines of walls, institutions or books. As I have heard many times "The religious life is not a theory, we have to live it." and in order to live with, we have to truly experience it. This means embracing all that is life and increasing our sensitivity to it.

The sense of wonder is never lost. We can reawaken the ears of our ears and open the eyes of our eyes. We can re-awaken this sixth sense, this natural religiousness, this sense of wonder. Wonder can re-open doors which invite us to a greater experience of living that can transform our experience of life. This can enable us to fully sense life in all its forms; to fully sense our senses. We can be swept away by the elements or stand next a mountain and feel as insignificant as a speck of dust. All that is required is that we let the natural wonder at the core of our being work through our senses and as a result we become instantly connected to the joyfulness woven into the core of all creation.

Everyone can awaken to the wonder of life; everyone can find that sustaining joy which is at the core of all life; everyone can reawaken the ears of their ears and open the eyes of their eyes.

"I still feel the wonder as the sky turns to fire."


  1. Thanks Danny - for this beautiful refection on wonder - which to me is worship. I am about to take my afternoon climb up Denne Hill to enjoy the sunset.

  2. Thank you Richard...let's receive each blessing, each breath in ecstatic wonder