Thursday, January 24, 2013

WHY I WONDER – Believing Is Seeing

PHOTO: Gavin Tobin

(In my previous Why I Wonder post, I likened wonder to a path where the starting point is the essential, childlike curiosity with which each of us was born; the destination, an indeterminate point where we start to recognize the spiritual meaning of that curiosity and the portals to wisdom and grace it opens for us.)

Trying to talk about this mystical aspect of wonder is where some people's eyes start to glaze over. But it's not that complicated. In fact, it's actually the opposite. That's why kids are so good at wonder. Their minds and spirits are still relatively pure, their original circuitry for joy and wonder less likely to have been drained of juice—shorted out if you will—by culturally imposed expectation, prejudice and cynicism. It's why, with kids, it's often so easy to see the exact moment when simple amusement turns to magic.

For most of us adults, child-like wonder is something we have to come back to after years 
or decades of its deprivation.

What children may not fully appreciate about such joy and magic—and this is one of the few advantages adulthood holds over childhood when it comes to wonder—are the deeper redemptive qualities they possess. I suppose it’s like the notion of not being able to fully appreciate something—beauty, love, freedom…fill in the blank—until you’ve faced living without it.

For most of us adults, child-like wonder is something we have to come back to after years or decades of its deprivation at the hands of overwork, over-thinking, preoccupation, ambition, and the other joy robbers in our busy lives.

Every step along the path of wonder is nothing more or less than what we make it. For some it's very deliberate; for others it takes on a life of its own. The latter approach—again, one which children model quite well—is worth cultivating if we want to explore the limits of our capacity for awe.

You've heard me say this before: in general, we see what we expect to see. This is as true in our own disposition as it is in Nature. When I lift up a leaf to see what’s under it, I don’t do that because I expect to find nothing.

By the same token, when I’m getting to know someone, if I’m to come down from the intoxication of telling my own story long enough to ask them about theirs, it sure helps if I believe their story might surprise and delight me. And, even in getting to know myself, if I start rolling back a layer of doubt, regret or anger to see what’s there, I always feel better—and learn more, it seems—when I expect it’s going to be something good.

I know this place where curiosity and faith meet has something to do with the essential meaning of life.

So you see there’s a strong element of faith in the kind of wonder I've tried to cultivate for myself and teach those who want to learn it. I can think of no more cogent way of putting it than the quote I often cite from former National Geographic photographer Dewitt Jones. In a short film he made to help business executives tap into their latent creativity, he twisted an old maxim, saying that sometimes "you have to believe it to see it."

This is why I wonder. I know—catching the purest sense of it only in fleeting epiphanies—that this place where curiosity and faith meet has something to do with the ultimate secret of happiness, the essential meaning of life.

In so many ways the world I experience—Nature, other people, life’s situations—is a reflection of who I am. This can be both humbling and empowering. It supports my conviction that seeing with wonder is actually more about what you give to the experience than what you get from it. It’s a notion I call "seeing generously."

What does that term, seeing generously, mean to you? Do you see life that way?

(Watch for the next post in the Why I Wonder series: Seeing Generously)

8 comments:

zane s said...

"Seeing generously" means to be fully open and aware without judgement. The ability to see generously is perhaps a benefit of realizing our connectedness to everything else. Everything depends on everything else, and everything is pretty darn amazing!

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hey Zane -- How nice to see your presence here! Your comment is very well put. It's something I'm not always very good at myself. And the irony is that, at least for me, if I find myself working too hard at awareness, I might go right past it. It's something you can't make happen; you have to let it happen. Thanks so much for the comment -- hope you'll come back!

wondersofnature said...

The Why I Wonder series is very pertinent to my life right now. Thank You.

Seeing generously is a life long journey, an approach that requires commitment, practice and determination. With continued effort it has amazing rewards for the practitioner and those around them.

Jeffrey Willius said...

Thanks so much, WON! I know you get it...and good for you for sharing the idea of seeing generously with so many through your blogging and work with kids there in England!

Galen Pearl said...

I love that phrase "seeing generously." This seems to imply viewing life with openness and gratitude.

Jeffrey Willius said...

Hi Galen -- yes, the concept of seeing generously has occurred to me over years of writing about curiosity, awareness and wonder, and it seems to absorb more meaning each time I use it.
Certainly openness and gratitude, but also just the simple idea of curiosity seems to me like a giving of yourself to the world (whether it's curiosity about Nature, other people, even oneself). And, as I touch on in this post, when you roll in an element of faith, isn't one making an even greater investment in the incredible beauty and goodness of this world?

Bern Krausse said...

Words are very contextual although they are often used rigidly where people often then can not communicate with each other. In one sentence, a word can mean one thing to me, in the next sentence the word can hold an opposite meaning if it helps to describe or to convey a feeling or a concept.

To believe is one of those words for me. Since this article has children at its core... lets use belief in the context of what they see or don't expect to see. Children... initially don't have many or any belief systems... therefore... they don't hold expectations. The belief systems therefore filter or block energy from getting into our souls. They block our psychic pores.

If one lives in the moment... then they do not operate from a belief system... they accept the energy or data or stimulii first hand. Belief systems or believing in what someone else said is not direct first hand experience. If one does not see with a child's vision, then they have sold their soul or have become blocked or damned because of how we think the world works. The real world therefore is experienced and not dictated and memorized or relinquished or taught.

Therefore, any be-lie-f is a lie and to be-leave is to where someone LEAVES a state of BEing in favour of gossip.

Therefore, a child not only receives physical stimulus... but they also are sensitive to unseen stimulus since they lack the beliefs or the brainwashing or domestication that blocks such wonders so often in adults.

Words can never adequately describe what someone is feeling.... but a part of the fun is to create stories that can make you feel a certain way and experience nature and creation from a continually evolving and expanding point of view.

I love your expression of seeing generously Jeffrey. I can see this can also be linked to the idea of expectations. For instance... lets say if someone is down on themselves.... they berate their actions... and therefore... they are not in alignment with life and their personal truth of how they receive and are gifted the universe. They have shut down to the greater world around them because of the rule of society....

However, if someone comes around and through empathy can feel that they are down... One can turn the situation around with compassion and see or vision a new story for them to enact. They can now see that they are happy about themselves and that they are creative and expressive and connected to the flow of life. The vision can be simple or can expand into infinity. Such a vision can be shared with direct communication or it can just be held in focus towards the person for which it is intended for.... In one sense... it is a visual prayer... or a probable reality that is being offered. If they believe what they are being energetically and telepathically transmitted with... then they can shift how they are experiencing reality.

People often confuse thoughts or feelings coming towards them as their own. However, often translated thoughts through distinct vibrations being sent to them are usually accepted without discrimination. So in a sense we are all psychic, but don't know it. So with the person who is down, if we see them as down... our energy or vision of them reinforces the down experience... and they get further into a hole instead of being a part of the whole.

Therefore, In seeing generously... one can offer the highest potential outcome for another person so that such energies are amplified and that such a conduit can be seen and felt more clearly to easily follow towards completion. This then is a true Gift.

Jeffrey Willius said...

Bernie -- as always, I appreciate the way you grab an idea, turn it over and over in your hands and then coax it to bloom into a beautiful, thoughtful reflection.
I'm especially glad you're moved to do so with the "seeing generously" concept. It's turned out to be central to much of my writing.

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