There is No Loss of Wonders, But only a Loss of Wonder. A Brief Summons to Awe

062513One of the great modern problems is boredom. It might seem that we would be one the of least bored ages of all, with our many diversions. Almost every form of entertainment is available quite literally at our fingertips, television, radio, Internet, Netflix, video games, and on and on.

But boredom easily overtakes us moderns.  The problem seems quite simply that we are overstimulated.

The loud and frantic pace of even our recreational activities, leaves most of us incapable of appreciating the subtler, gentler, and more hidden things of life.

Dale Ahlquist, the great commentator on Chesterton, in his book “Common Sense” writes:

There is no excuse for being bored… And yet the modern world is bored.… Our entertainment grows louder, flashier, and more bizarre, in an ever more desperate attempt just to keep our attention. (Chapter 2, incipit)

As Chesterton proclaims, In Tremendous Trifles, p. 7)  the world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder.”  He also says that there are no dreary sites, only dreary sightseers.

And thus, boredom is a problem on the inside. And happiness too, is an inside job. A great gift that all of us should seek is is a gift of wonder and awe; the gift to appreciate God’s glories and wonders on display at every moment, and everything we see and everyone we encounter.

But the gift of wonder also depends on other gifts, in particular,  humility and gratitude.

Ahlquist writes:

The key to happiness and the key to wonder is humility.… Humility means being small enough to see the greatness of something and to feel unworthy of it, and  privileged to be a able to enjoy it.  (Chapter 2 mid).

Consider well the meaning of these wonderful yet simple words, and the relationship between humility, wonder, and gratitude. Yes, to humble is to feel unworthy of the glories before us, to wonder at them and feel privileged just to enjoy them.

Indeed, even the word “consider” invites us to a kind of awestruck and grateful mysticism. For the word “consider” comes from two Latin words cum (with) + sidera (stars), i.e. “with the stars.”  In other words,  to “consider” something is to think upon it, regard it  and gaze upon it with the wonder that one has been looking at the night sky filled with stars!

So, “consider” well the glories on display from moment to moment, behold them with humility, with wonder, and gratitude.

This video I put together celebrates the night sky, a glory that most of us city dwelling moderns have never truly seen, but a glory that was on display every night before  the year 1900.

11 Replies to “There is No Loss of Wonders, But only a Loss of Wonder. A Brief Summons to Awe”

  1. Indeed. Sometimes I’m in awe of very common things like the ability of my body to work its works to keep myself healthy. I praise God for His Mercy and Kindness and Thoughtfulness.

  2. Boredom. So many folk are busy trying to fill the emptiness in their lives.When they find no remedies, boredom sets in. If you are running away from something or have no specific destination in life, every time you stop for inventory, you will find the same thing (nothing) and be bored and dissatisfied. A little faith goes a long way to cure this ill.

  3. Monsignor, I cancelled our cable some months ago. It dulled our sense of wonder and occupied my children with mindless images and noise.

    1. Jennifer i did this 2 or 3 years ago. now, i see God in everything. It is such a blessing to be free to see the hand of God everywhere. We are an enslaved people, slowly dying for lack of God.

  4. I would guess not only is it the over stimulation that bores us but the progressive withdrawl from contact and communion with the natural processes of life found in nature. The shift from an agrarian society, to industriall, to high tech has taken that part of the society away from it’s inherent God given nature. People have lost sight of their participation in a natural God given plan. Life becomes nothing more than a fabrication of the mind to compensate the neurosis of nihilism.

  5. When I learn a new work or athletic skill and proceed to new levels then, I change within and without but, when it’s about experiencing a new thrill that I attach or download or when I learn how to submit to a new editing/processing package that does my work for me then, I have no growth. If achievement is all about what the machine does for me how can I grow.
    If we look about us we can see how all living things have been created to grow and change and, thereby, inspire us to grow in a positive direction until it’s time to move on, or peraps at some times step aside, and allow others to grow.
    Early technology (a plow pulled by a draft animal is technology even though it may not appear much like it in our glitsy techno world) was used by a person to achieve but now, our growth seemed stifled as machines work and beep like the dehumanizing ‘borg cubes portrayed in the various Star Trek shows.
    Modern technology progresses toward doing the work and entertaining while the entertainer pushes the appropriate start button(s) and joins the viewers who feel stifled by the suppression of the “inside job” so that more techno distraction is needed to suppress the frustration of the static state being created.
    We’ve been led through thousands of years of growth as over half a million escapees from slavery learn freedom by interacting with the wilderness for forty years and as prophets turn to the desert for its inspiration. Now our machine creations begin to conquer us, not by their efforts but, by our efforts to escape the inside job on what appears to be the brink of success.
    An electric powered saw enabled the carpenter to do more with less effort but, with more programing, the consruction site will do its own work until we no longer need a carpenter. Is it any wonder that so many are starting to think that we no longer need The Carpenter?

  6. Hello, Monsignor! I just got back from a trip to Florida to visit my in-laws, and I can really appreciate what you have written!

    Of course, Florida is the land of Disney theme parks! I am 47 years old and have managed to escape these parks for that long, but my in-laws live near them and my family wanted to visit, so we did.

    I’m not knocking anyone for visiting Disney World, but I, personally, hope I’m never talked into it again. I’m exhausted, over-stimulated, and broke. Give me a good book and the seashore any day.

    On a side note – I missed reading your blog each day and see I have some catching up to do!

    1. +1. The problem with most attractions is (for me), the noise level. Not to mention the busy-ness of it all (after all, it’s a business). It’s getting harder to find some quiet space(s). So I tend to shun these ‘exciting’ venues and would much rather take a quiet walk in some open place. And it doesn’t cost anything.

  7. Why will people try anything and everything else (and for years and years) but will not give God a chance in their lives (to fill the void so to speak). Even those in desperation from such things as alcohol or drugs, etc. will go to great lengths to do anything else for help but will not turn to God. I have seen it in family members even though they know God can give them Hope and can help them (and I have tried to help them reach out to God) but they refuse no matter how bad it gets. I am so puzzled by this. Only my father reached out in a sincere way to God for forgiveness and help and that was when he knew he was dieing, but thank God for that!

  8. We are largely leisure failures, today, in the West. Perhaps, if we began to wonder at our own boredom that would be beginning of renewal. Pleasant song and video and post.

  9. Absolutely. The problem here, IMHO is over-stimulation; and that leads to boredom. It’s akin to going to a buffet and there are 50 kinds of dishes available and we want to eat all of them. That would lead to either a stomach ache, or worse still, we could get used to it and become tremendously overweight and unhealthy. I think it’s terribly dangerous to be bored, for boredom could lead to all sorts of distractions. “Keep it simple” is my motto. It gives me a chance to focus on the important stuff. God bless you, Msgr. Pope.

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