A Place for Childlike Wonder

Yesterday, as the night wound down, I was sitting in the bathroom giving my son his bath. My son is only a little older than 8 months and has recently discovered new tricks that he loves to bust out. He can clap on demand, never failing to bring a one-tooth-coming-in smile to his chubby cheeks; I think he understands “high-five” and “kiss” (though he always goes for the scandalous open mouth kiss) and perhaps my favorite, when my wife says “Can Luca dance?”, he begins to flap his arms and rock his body with a big grin. One of the tricks we didn’t have to teach him was the ability to splash. Man, the boy would win most water fights, only he is typically having a water fight with himself and the bathtub. Usually half of the water ends spilling out. But he takes such joy in the splashing, that I think he is the definite winner.

As I was sitting there last night, watching his pure glee as he splashed water all over, I was struck by the thought; “When do we stop taking joy in the splashing?” I don’t know about you, but I don’t spend too much time splashing these days. But I did as a kid. I remember pool fights, where, when you think rationally, they made no sense at all. Think about it. You are all in the pool, already wet head to toe, by somehow it is a thing to see who can get more wet by splashing? I remember water balloon fights where all you needed was some water balloons, buckets full of water and a garden hose. No super soakers, no water cannons, no giant water-balloon sling shots (though those are crazy fun). Have we lost something in the growing up that we should fight to hang onto?

Perhaps it is that everything is new for a child. When my son stares at his hands, rolling his wrists and and bending each finger, I wish I knew what was going on in his little head. I wish I could distill the magic that is happening and take a drink myself. I think it is this everyday magic that we too easily ignore or dismiss. I read a brilliant essay by Rebecca Reynolds called Miracle on Demand that challenged me to think on this. She states that “I think that’s because the same God who bends physics created it in the first place, and he could just have easily made water so that it always turned to wine, or bread so that it multiplies every time upon being broken. Natural laws are simply the way the miracle of creation is sustained over time.” Did you ever see the YouTube video of the lady who had surgery so that she could hear for the first time? Heck, search YouTube for “hearing for the first time” and you will see video after video of people who are experiencing sound for the first time. Tell me that is not an everyday miracle.

Now I know that calling everything a miracle or everyday magic might diminish to some the “big miracles.” But for a little kid, that sense of wonder is there in everything because everything is new and interesting. Reynolds states “Nothing exists that didn’t begin with a miracle. Was the first bird created in Eden by the voice of God a miracle? Was the one billionth bird created by the voice of God creating a bird that could create other birds a miracle? I say yes on both counts.” How do we recapture that wonder? I don’t know if we can. I don’t know if I can go back to taking pure joy in clapping my hands, hearing music, dancing to the music. Levi the Poet, in the song “Orphan Theism” from his album Correspondence (a fiction) says, “Where does the beauty inside of a tree reside, made up of atoms, identical and colorless, where the light of the sun merely vibrates in waves toward our eyes, striking tissues and moving along nerves like a telephone wire, to their endings, like telephones? I do not know. There is no actual color in the atoms of which the tree is composed, or in those vibrations. Shape, size, color, touch and the like are simply the names we call our sensations, and no amount of study can ever bring the notion of beauty to the tree… When I don’t know how, help me embrace the mystery.”

I think that might be the trick, to embrace the mystery. In this day and age, we read the paper to become cynics, google any answer, have science to answer everything and we lost sight that mystery, that wonder, hides in plain sight. We seek uniformity and perfection and lose sight of the beauty of imperfection, of uniqueness. When we live in an auto-tuned, lip-synced world, we miss the beauty of a live performance and life is giving us a live performance, day by day, minute by minute. Don’t miss it. Don’t wait for the big things, the birth of your first child, the epic concert, the romantic date to see the wonder in the way your brain communicates to the rest of your body to move, the way your radio takes music out of mid-air and makes it something your ears can hear, or the wonder of creation around you. We can’t explain it all and that’s good. It makes us better artists, better people to live with a little bit of wonder in our lives.

G.K. Chesterton wrote in his classic Orthodoxy, “It is possible that God says every morning, ‘Do it again’ to the sun; and every evening, ‘Do it again’ to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”

So grow younger as you keep splashing.

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