Wonder takes us into territory where every idea, every certainty, seems too small.
I remember the days as a young boy being brought up in a sectarian religious household where I was taught “The Truth”. Yes, not just truth but “The Truth”. Of course, always with the best intention – that I would belong to the exclusive group, that I would be forgiven, that I would eventually live forever. I remember occasionally trying to justify these truths to my peers, sometimes even presenting them in class – for example in a creation/evolution debate. I can still remember that hollow feeling you get when trying to justify something that you know isn’t real and isn’t something that you really know or believe for sure out of your own experience. Trying to win an argument for something that is not actually part of me, that is not true to my own felt sense.
For me it has been wonder that has blown away such certainties and replaced them with the joy of Mystery and the ecstasy of not knowing. I remember vividly the day in my teens when I first has that felt sense of Mystery. The supposed facts, “The Truth” as an intellectual idea fell away in the face of an experience of Love. To be honest, it came to me as an experience of Jesus as a living presence but I know that for others it can be different and for me it has been different on other occasions. What I can say is that it opened up wonder in me and a desire never to accept another certainty again, at least not the certainties presented by those who will not allow themselves to question or to be uncertain.
Jesus repeatedly said something like “it has been said…but I say to you”. I think he had encountered wonder himself and it took him beyond the ideas, certainties and practices of his culture and religion. Indeed, I think of Jesus as one who, within his time and culture but relevant to us all, introduces us to cultural evolution energised by the life energy of the universe which in religious language we may call the Spirit of God. He introduced the idea and experience of the “Spirit of truth”. Truth not so much as an idea, dogma or certainty but an inspiring presence with us on the journey of life. I see this as being true personally but also for us culturally, politically and in every other way.
Wonder invites a willingness to be uncertain and to see and sense something which is beyond what we think we know. When we have an experience of wonder the ideas that are too small can, at least for a while, fall away and we can be opened up to new insight, new possibilities and new ways of being in this world.