The Wonder of Living

Written by Pat Sullivan

"Awe", the heart of creativity, love and connection to the divine.

Remember the scene in Field of Dreams just before James Earl Jones disappeared into the cornfield? He looked as if he'd just seen heaven and been invited to enter.

Recall a childhood hero. Try to remember how he or she first stirred your dreams.

Take any object, such as your computer, and trace it to its source. How did it get into your hands? Where did all its raw materials originate?

Think of two favorite authors. Take a walk in the woods or by the sea and imagine them walking with you. What would they notice? What would excite them?

That's how 2-year-old Jeffrey looked when he saw his first butterfly. Jeffrey, however, was less subdued. He ecstatically grabbed my hand, as if sharing the experience was just as important as enjoying it himself.

Artist Frederick Franck has a word for the way Jeffrey looked at the butterfly. It's "schouwen," a Dutch word (pronounced "skow-en"), meaning to see something in all its dimensions. It's the way mystics, artists, lovers and children see, without preconceptions.

Active seeing moves us, even if we've seen something many times before. It calls us into a beyond-words state that begs to be pondered, danced, painted or turned into poetry and activism.

video fo Joey reiman on creativityWatch this video on nurturing creativity.

One master of schouwen is Rachel Carson, author of Silent Spring. Carson's novel was inspired by a friend's letter in 1957 that described the horrible deaths of local songbirds after a nearby marsh was sprayed with DDT.

At the time, scientific and economic "progress" was almost universally valued far more than the environment. After all, a reviewer of Carson's book would later write, "We can live without birds, but not without business."

Carson began Silent Spring by evoking our love of birds and honoring their ability to inspire us. Then she described how continued pesticide use could strip the land of birds and their song. The contrast of the two pictures sparked visions of ecological healing in the hearts of readers throughout the world.

Carson also wrote The Sense of Wonder, inspired by children's "clear-eyed vision, that true instinct for what is beautiful and awe-inspiring." The book aims to help parents keep their children's awesome curiosity alive.

It's also read by many adults in hopes of reclaiming their ability to see the way Jeffrey saw when he encountered his very first butterfly, or when James Earl Jones entered his field of dreams.

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