Wonder is the gap between beholding and understanding. Wonder lives in the audible gasp of the witness who notices something so wholly beautiful she simply must stop in her tracks and watch, quietly.
Wonder respects mystery. It is humble. It is the recognition of creatureliness, of one’s place in the family of things, as a thing created not the Creator. Wonder says, “Oh, my God,” waiting in hopeful, expectant stillness.
Wonder can be easily missed or trampled upon. Lit from below by the blue light of technological screens, we cast our eyes and desires on the fruitless or the inane. We avoid the recognition of our contingency, the cold, hard, marbled fact: we did not have to be, but we are. We expend energy and heat trying to become either numb or immortal. Numbness wastes time, while immortality, unfortunately and fortunately, is impossible.
Wonder is also stitched in the exhale, in the letting go of knowing everything, for we never know everything. We always want to understand, to feel as though we control Nature in all her forms, but as much as we know of the composition of soil, of wind patterns, of lightyears, of demographic data, we never know why. Why the earth, blue and marbled, hangs in suspension in the Milky Way. We only ever know a portion of the whole. We can never and will never see the full picture, for we cannot contain it all, try as we might.
So we experience moments, if we are paying enough attention to notice the life in front of us, in which we glimpse the divine – the total beauty and intelligence beyond our full comprehension. Some might call this order. Others might name it wisdom or grace or God.
That which sparks a feeling of wonder or awe in us is different for each of us. Watching land I know well change with the seasons, the Pacific Ocean, walks at golden hour, witnessing acts of kindness, and spending time with my loved ones allows me to behold that which is holy. Wonder is sparked by the holy. It is God, grabbing our attention from the mundane, to a higher place. God whispers, “Wait. Look here.” And we, bathed in loving presence, remember that not everything in this world is falling apart.
We know so much and so little, both the emptiness and the fullness are important and deeply human efforts in living well. The sacred gap, however, between beholding and understanding must be protected. This gap reminds us of what is worthy of protection and allows us to create more space within ourselves for generosity, gentleness, and love.
In the throes of majesty or intricacy or attentiveness, we become more human and holier at once.