The more I live, the more I’m convinced that we should know when to shift our critical thinking machine into neutral and simply enjoy life like we used to when we were kids.
That’s difficult to write because I firmly believe that critical thinking is key to helping chart the course for our individual and collective futures. When we’re bombarded by explosive images, stories, and posts, the absolute best thing we can ever do is to ask critical questions that cut through the emotional fog. “What’s the other side of the story?” “What other sources can I check out?” “What do other people say?” “Why is this person using such incendiary language?” …You get the idea. With so much fear, hate, and prejudice underlying media–social and otherwise–we’d be foolish taking things at face value.
And yet, there comes a time when we have to stop thinking so much and simply open our eyes and hearts to magic.
A critical thinker can look at the world with, “Well, there really can’t be a God, right? What kind of warped deity would allow all this to happen?” There’s no other rational, critical alternative that makes sense than such atheism.
There is, though, a spiritual alternative that makes sense, and it starts with us looking at the world through big eyes rather than with just big brains. What are experiences you’ve had that simply blew your rational mind out of the water and made you sit down and say, “Wow! What’s going on here?” It’s like the metaphorical burning bush incident that got Moses’ attention long enough so he could hear God talking. Indeed, the biblical writers, having lived before the scientific method, were very keen on being open to burning bushes.
Such experiences could be anything from looking up at the Milky Way to witnessing the birth of a child to an eerie “coincident” to something totally unexplainable that impacted your life. Such are the transcendent moments when we discover that the universe is a lot bigger and more amazing than our little brains can fathom.
Once we’ve had such an experience, then life becomes much more fun. It’s filled with delightful “what if’s”:
What if the Holy Spirit has a sense of humor and surprises us, just to get a good laugh?
What if dying is just the birth pangs for a new way of living, relating, and exploring?
What if compassion, empathy, and justice really change the world from the inside out?
What if what connects us together as humans is much stronger than what separates us?
What if we could live each day believing that the One who created us, and the ones who’ve gone on before us, love being around us and even dole out signs of their presence?
What are the illogical what-if’s that you could add?
Such things remind us of our place. In between birth and death we may imagine we’re in control of things and can make pronouncements of right/wrong, what is/isn’t. But the beginning and ending of our lives remind us that life’s ultimately both a gift and a mystery, and that we’re the created not the Creator. So in the in-between times, let’s lighten up and loosen up a little.
What if life really is shot through with mystery, miracle, and meaning?
What if we live like it is and enjoy what the universe might have in store for us today?
Part of the inspiration for this particular blog came from the English romantic poets, who praised the enormous beauty of the natural world. They reacted against the smug, dry rationalists of their day.
My favorite is William Wordsworth. Here are a couple of his poems that help serve as spiritual guard rails:
From his “The Tables Turned:”
One impulse from a vernal wood
May teach you more of man,
Of moral evil and of good,
Than all the sages can.
Sweet is the lore which Nature brings;
Our meddling intellect
Mis-shapes the beauteous forms of things:
We murder to dissect.
And my favorite, “My Heart Leaps Up:”
My heart leaps up when I behold
A rainbow in the sky:
So was it when my life began;
So is it now I am a man;
So be it when I shall grow old,
Or let me die!
The Child is father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.