Rapt in Awe


He who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead (Einstein)

While at a spectacular, Las Vegas magic show, I was surprised to see a member of the audience sound asleep. Too bad, he missed a great show. Even more regrettable are those who sleep through and miss the greatest magic show of all: life. We are surrounded by miracles. We ourselves are miracles. Any child knows this. Not to experience wonder and awe every day of our life is to exist without living. Or as Albert Einstein wrote, "The most beautiful emotion we can experience is the mysterious. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead. To know that what is impenetrable to us really exists, manifesting itself as the highest wisdom and the most radiant beauty, which our dull faculties can comprehend only in their most primitive forms -- this knowledge, this feeling, is at the center of true religiousness."

Isn't it miraculous how the universe can express itself by creating a Pablo Picasso, Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, or a Michelangelo? The universe is performing miracles every day. Here's how Ray Bradbury describes the process: "We are the miracle of force and matter making itself over into imagination and will. Incredible. The Life Force experimenting with forms. You for one. Me for another. The Universe has shouted itself alive. We are one of the shouts." "Everything is a miracle." says Picasso, "It is a miracle that one does not dissolve in one's bath like a lump of sugar." And Einstein adds, "There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."

Part of the miracle of existence is the interconnectedness of all things. As I walk through the park, I can smell the roses. How does that happen? Well, the fragrance of the roses is actually a stream of molecules wafting through the air and entering my body through my nose. Though separated by distance, the roses and I are connected. Speaking of distance, what about that star I was gazing at? It's light-years away. Yet, photons streaming from it enter my eye, excite the optic nerve, and cause my brain to create an image of it in my mind. That star and I are connected, "touching" each other! And, of course, you and I are connected in a special way, for all humans share a common gene pool. We're made of the same stuff. We're related. We're interconnected.

These facts also impressed Einstein, for he wrote, "A human being is a part of a whole, called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feelings as something separated from the rest... a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty."

Those who have no money are poor. Those who have nothing but money are poorer. But those who can enjoy without owning are rich. We cannot own the universe, a field of flowers, a starry night, or a wandering brook. Yet, we can enjoy them all. These ideas were shared by Confucius who said, "With coarse rice to eat, with water to drink, and my bent arm for a pillow -- I have still joy in the midst of all these things." When we are at work, play, or at home, we can stop whatever we're doing for a few seconds each hour and remind ourselves that we are alive and living in the midst of wonders. By experiencing a life of wonder, we live a wonder-full life.

Although there will never be a scarcity of wonders, there seems to be a shortage of wonder. I wonder why. Anyway, don't be like the person who said, "I had a terrific life, but I wish I knew it sooner." When we live in the past or for the future, we fail to see the wonder of the present moment. That's why the time to experience awe and enjoy life is now. Don't let it slip through your fingers. By living your life one day at a time, you live all the days of your life. I like Harold V. Melchert's description of what we should do: "Live your life each day as you would climb a mountain. An occasional glance toward the summit keeps the goal in mind, but many beautiful scenes are to be observed from each new vantage point. Climb slowly, steadily, enjoying each passing moment; and the view from the summit will serve as a fitting climax for the journey."

© Chuck Gallozzi
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