I’m often amazed by the feelings that life brings. They are always a mixed bag. The blessings and curses of “choosing life”, to paraphrase Moses. I felt some changes towards the end of last week, like something had shifted once again. I had taken a few days off and I suspect that my soul and body had once again re-aligned. Never a comfortable process, but always a beautiful one.
I feel like a child again; I feel amazed by it all again; I feel awake once again.
Life amazes me, constantly. Despite all the darkness and destruction that is present, that can overwhelm it all, life and love always seems to find a way through. Like that little shoot that finds its way back to life every spring time, finding its way through all the obstacles in its way, insisting on reaching out beyond and finding life. That amazes me; I find that utterly amazing.
Last week I was chatting away with a friend on facebook messenger when suddenly on my news feed a “Meme” appeared with a beautiful picture and a quote by Abraham Joshua Heschel that read
“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ....get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
Now it’s one of those quotes that I’ve heard before, it does the rounds every now and again, but that day it really struck me. I paused and I listened to the words as they ran through my mind, my heart and my soul…especially the phrases “to be spiritual is to be amazed” and “Our goal should be to live in radical amazement.”
Now what on earth could that mean?
“Radical Amazement” is about looking into the familiar with what Rumi called “fresh eyes”, it’s about recognising that even the most routine moments are in actual fact outrageous. Just think about our existence here on this spinning planet rushing through a universe some 13 billion years old, or so they tell us. We are formed from stardust and yet made from flesh that are homes to entire eco-systems and billions of cells that are neatly balanced so as to allows us to exist, that are constantly altering and changing and adjusting to all that we experience. We who are made from stardust are more than merely stardust though, we are made up of complex thoughts, emotions and experiences and there is a spirit within each of us. We are more than merely our biology; we are more than merely thinking meat. It is amazing and marvellous to truly be who we are.
Bang…and here we are in a fabulous place…what are you gunna do here…in this sacred place, in this sacred time, in these are sacred bodies, in these are sacred lives…
“Radical Amazement” is about looking into life with truly open eyes, it is an ethical act and an intentional decision, it is the ultimate spiritual practise and as such it is one that involves great risk. This is because it opens us up to all that is, as it truly is. This requires courage, because to see the beauty also requires us to see the horror too. This may seem too awful for some, but it is the awe that accompanies vulnerability that is required to be awakened to radical amazement.
Victoria Safford in the meditation “Open Eyes” asks us to
“Think of yourself as a prism made of glass, reflecting everything as it is, unable to exists dishonestly – reflecting beauty where there’s beauty, violence where there’s violence, loveliness and unexpected joy where there is joy, violation where there’s violation.”
To see the world with awakened eyes, fresh eyes, open eyes is look into the life in “Radical Amazement”. It is life as it truly is in its awe filled beauty. It is to truly let life in and to fill us to the brim.
Victoria Safford sees this as refraction, taking in all that is life and thus allowing it to transform us so that we can begin again anew. She calls it holy work as once we are transformed by it we can let is shine out of us in the prism of our ordinary daily actions as we live in life.
She says that
“To see clearly is an act of will and conscience. It will make you very vulnerable. It is persistent, holy, world transforming work."
Openness is at the core of my understanding of the Unitarian spiritual tradition. At our best we encourage and celebrate the kind of openness and intentionality that enables “Radical Amazement” to be possible. When I lead worship each week my hope is to encourage, to challenge and to inspire those who join with me to not get stuck in a frame work of belief or un-belief but instead to cultivate their own experiences and see deep within them so as to bring meaning into each of our lives and thus to bring about transformation both within each of us and the world in which we interact and have our being.
Yes it’s a risky business we enter into each week, but one worth engaging in.
I’m going to end this little blogspot with a short anecdote from the life of Abraham Joshua Heschel.
Whenever he gave an evening lecture he would begin with the following words.
"Ladies and gentlemen, a great miracle has just occurred!"
As the audience began to stir in puzzlement, the great theologian would elaborate…
"Ladies and gentlemen, a great miracle has just take place...the sun has gone down."
Never mind anything else, isn’t this amazing in and of itself?
Let’s open our eyes and look into the magnificent mystery of life. Let us live with “Radical Amazement”. Let us not lose our sense of wonder at the miracle that is sheer being.
For it truly is a risk worth taking.