Today we conclude our our early winter theme, Beginnings, and looking forward to Imbolc/Candlemas with an essay by columnist, Bart Everson: “Always Beginning Again”.
My daughter reminded me of something important, something profound, something I once knew but had forgotten, something I can’t put into words but that nevertheless changed my life. She accomplished this feat not by saying or doing anything in particular, but by coming into the world, by being born, and by simply being.
As a new parent I found myself looking at the world through her eyes, and everything was new. The familiar seemed strange. A sense of wonder and awe pervaded. The world was full of mystery, and that mystery was full of value, and that value contained mystery within it, unending. And this experience did not feel like a purely subjective feeling. It had the character of deep truth.
Yet of course this way of looking at the world, this seeing with new eyes, was in fact nothing new. It was something very old. It did not feel, to me, like a new truth revealed. It felt like an old truth rediscovered. I had known this before. I had been here before. I had seen the world this way, once upon a time. And now here I was again.
I wondered to myself: Now that I’m back, can I find some way to stay here? How did this happen? How did I forget? It seemed like it shouldn’t be possible, to forget something so important, so crucial, so intrinsic to the nature of being alive and being human.
We are constantly forgetting. We must forget in order to function. We simply can’t hold all our experience in working memory. We’re constantly shuffling experiences off to other parts of our mind for long-term storage, and if we don’t call them back, they get harder to access and may even become lost.
We are constantly forgetting trivial experiences. What did lunch taste like last Tuesday? Strangely enough, we can also forget important experiences. We can, in fact, forget the most important experiences of all. We can and do lose touch with the most profound truths of existence.
I want a reminder. I want to be nudged, shoved if need be, back to the truth. This is the trick of living, or one of the tricks anyhow. It’s easy to pay lip service to love and wonder, but I want to know it, to live it, to feel it in my bones.
It’s great to get such reminders randomly, out of the blue, by surprise, such as happened when I became a father. I was ambushed by reality, so to speak. There’s really no substitute for these spontaneous experiences. They are a blessing, a gift, and if I am open to the possibilities inherent in life they may happen more often.
I wished to take a more proactive approach, to cultivate openness, to embark intentionally on the journey. I wished to constantly remind myself us of basic mysteries which I tend to forget.
Meditation can serve this purpose. My daily practice is like hitting a reset button. (Well, you know, sometimes.) In sitting silently, I get back to basics. I recall who I am, what I love, how I want to live, and what I have to offer.
The cycle of seasonal celebrations also serves this purpose. The holidays enshrined in the Wheel of the Year bring us back, again and again, to certain themes. These themes are diverse and varied, but one constant that runs through them all is renewal. They are all about beginning, each in their own way; because the Wheel is a cycle, any point can be taken as a beginning. Through my observance of any given holiday, I renew and refresh my perspective on life.
In all things I seek to see again through new eyes, to encounter the world with a freshness of perspective, to hold on to that sense of awe and wonder I knew sometimes as a child, to remember that which I already know.
For discussion in the comments below: How do you remind yourself of those experiences which are most important to you? How do you reconnect with a sense of wonder at life?
In addition to writing the A Pedagogy of Gaia column here at HumanisticPaganism, Bart Everson is a writer, a photographer, a baker of bread, a husband and a father. An award-winning videographer, he is co-creator of ROX, the first TV show on the internet. As a media artist and an advocate for faculty development in higher education, he is interested in current and emerging trends in social media, blogging, podcasting, et cetera, as well as contemplative pedagogy and integrative learning. He is a founding member of the Green Party of Louisiana, past president of Friends of Lafitte Corridor, sometime contributor to Rising Tide, and a participant in New Orleans Lamplight Circle.
Parenthood affected me in the very same way! All my jaded and cynical views were challenged by the wonder in the eyes of my children. Even though they are now teen and tween, they continue to keep me in the moment. Time in nature is my way back, when I find myself losing my sense of awe.
Riding my bike, which i do almost every day, can help keep me connect to wonder and awe and to who I am and what I love. Pedaling myself along the streets and through the elements, I feel more connected to myself and to the world. The barriers are down. I feel badass and vulnerable and amazed, all at the same time, especially on night bike rides in the summer. Some summer night rides have felt like magic.