My favorite read this week was “Dialogue with a Rock.” It begins in examining a state that I remember distinctly struggling with in my teenage years: “As a self I am a cosmic center from which all lines radiate, I am the nexus where all dimensions of reality meet. To get in touch with my sensations and perceptions is, therefore, to know the whole world of which I am the center.” (Keen 28) This speaks in particular to that moment in youth where we are most aware of ourselves and often least aware of others and particularly how we affect them. I spent what felt like ages toying with the idea that everything I knew was based solely on how I perceived things; what if that was the sum of reality?
I slowly moved to the point of questioning how reliable my perception was and if it was possible that each living thing was as profoundly real and complex as I was, and we were all spinning with each other in this wild dance of perceiving and interacting. McFague wrote of this perspective: “The loving eye, on the other hand, acknowledges complexity, mystery, and difference. It recognizes that boundaries exist between the self and the other, that the interests of other persons (and the natural world) are not identical with one’s own, that knowing another takes time and attention.” (McFague 34) My wonder grew as I began to see, within the same universe, each life’s unique distinctness of being while we were all simultaneously interconnected with one another. When I leaned too far into this “eye,” I would find myself disabled, afraid to live for fear of how I might end up unknowingly effecting things. Thus, the conversation between the rock and the author didn’t seem so very far-fetched to me.
The rock (in the obviously imagined dialogue) questioned the author, challenged him to move from being an aggressor to being a creature of wonder. The end results was this response: “SK: When I take the time to look at you from different perspectives to welcome your strangeness into my consciousness I am confused. I see your beauty now and not merely your usefulness. But I still have a wall to build. Any suggestions?” (Keen 29) Finding a balance between these two eyes allows me to continue to rest in the wondrous and bewildering while also being able to act based on what I know. I think this is a necessary tension that we must sit in. To use the eye analogy from McFague, we must see with both the loving eye as well as our arrogant eye. By seeing the world with both eyes, we create a field of depth. Trying to live using only one of these eyes would have us missing out on the beautiful complexity of life and causing irreparable harm not only to ourselves but others as well. Through the depth of seeing life through ourselves as well as the other, we can begin to live lives that embrace and appreciate not only our differentness but our interdependence.
Keen, Sam. “Dialogue with a Rock.” To A Dancing God. New York: Harper and Row, 1970. .pdf.
McFague, Sallie. “A New Sensibility.” Models of God. Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1987. pdf.
Starlings are startling in their ability to create these beautiful formations. Scientist truly couldn’t begin to understand them until they had the high-tech capabilities to analyze their movements in computers. What they discovered was amazing: the flock transcends biology. Every single starlings movement is influenced by every other starlings movement. Known as scale-free correlation, it can be best understood (although not perfectly) through looking at things like avalanches or crystal formations – on the verge of instantaneous change.
Because there is no LEADER of the formation, any starling has the ability to change the path of all starlings in the flock. Regardless of the size of the flock they remain equally responsive to all other starlings: velocity and orientation remain consistent regardless of the number of birds participating. We still cannot understand how they are able to process and respond to signals of the surrounding birds so quickly.
The most fascinating thing of all, perhaps, is that this is all in response to a predator, and the greater the threat, the more phenomenal the synchronicity. The all have and share the same goal of survival, and this singular goal allows them to create and perform at unfathomable levels.
Some find their identity in their brokenness, their failures, the mistakes that they made. It’s true, when we stand on our own, when we choose isolation, we are broken and seeking wholeness, fulfillment, happiness. We seek and seek and seek and inevitably grow weary. Perhaps you never quite feel satiated, or maybe the satisfaction you occasionally achieve only lasts for a short time.
But there is truth in this: we are meant to know wholeness, but wholeness as it comes through relationship with the Creator, the Advocate, the Savior: “And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together.” (Col. 1:17) It is the triune God that holds us together; that brings fullness, meaning and purpose to our lives. When Paul writes to the Ephesians, he calls this out to them and explains that God is limited to neither Jew nor Gentile but rather to all of creation.
For this reason I kneel before the Father, from whom every family in heaven and on earth derives its name. I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith. And I pray that you, being rooted and established in love, may have power, together with all the Lord’s holy people, to grasp how wide and long and high and deep is the love of Christ, and to know this love that surpasses knowledge—that you may be filled to the measure of all the fullness of God. -Ephesians 3:14-19
These are excerpts or short summaries from Radical Amazement by Judy Cannato that I’ll be using for my presentation tonight.
WHAT IS RADICAL AMAZEMENT?
- “Radical amazement is the chief characteristic of a religious attitude toward life and the proper response to the divine… According to Herschel, radical amazement “refers to all of reality; not only to what we see, but also to the very act of seeing as well as to our own selves, to the selves that we see and are amazed at the ability to see.” (pg. 10)
- Radical amazement catches us up in love-the Love that is the Creator of all that is, the Holy Mystery that never ceases to amaze, never ceases to lavish love in us, on us, around us. (pg. 12)
AMAZEMENT AT WHAT WE SEE/DON’T SEE
- Abraham Heschel said, “Awareness of the divine begins with wonder.” (pg. 7)
- Thomas Aquinas said that a mistake in our understanding of creation will necessarily cause a mistake in our understanding of God. (pg. 7)
- (1473-1543) Copernicus proposed the Earth rotated around the sun and rotates on it’s own axis once a day shortly before his death. (pg. 22)
- In 1609 Galileo substantiated Copernicus’ claim. Humans could no longer see themselves as the center of the universe. (22-23)
- The Milky Way is one hundred thousand light years across and ten thousand light years deep with between two hundred and four hundred billion stars. (pg. 8)
- As recently as the 1920s we thought that the Milky Way Galaxy comprised the entire universe but in 1923 Edwin Hubble photographed the Andromeda galaxy, 2.5 million light years away. Today we know that there are billions of galaxies, each with billions of stars. (pg. 8)
- In 1998, Wendy Freedman and a team of astrophysicists concluded that the Big Bang occurred about 13.7 billion years ago. (pg. 8)
- In 2003, Scientist determined that 25% of the universe is what is called dark matter (exerts gravitational pull) and 70% is dark energy (causes rate of expansion of the universe to accelerate). Only 5% of universe is composed of “ordinary” matter. (Pg. 9)
- If Big Bang had been one trillionth of a trillionth of a percent slower, the gravitational force would have been to great and the universe would have imploded. Equally faster and matter would have escaped gravitational pull and the cosmos would have been flung apart. (Pg. 9)
AMAZEMENT AT OUR SELVES
- Cosmology is the story that flows out of the study of the origin and development of the universe, including who we are and what we are about. (pg. 19)
- Atom discovered with the creation of the microscope (pg. 23) Scientists thought it was possible to separate the observer from the observed, being completely detached without influencing the observation. (24)
- We are stuck in the dualistic, hierarchical, either-or thinking that has created the very problems that threaten us. We are not mechanisms with separate parts, but interconnected holons that are mutually dependent. (pg. 14)
- To live and to work in one world and believe and pray in another makes our lives seem fragmented and disconnected, even alienated from what is truly lifegiving. (pg. 21)
- Besides challenging his listeners to consider who they were, Jesus urged them to consider who God was. (pg. 20)
- Evolution as a creative process urged on from within by the very Spirit of God. It recognized the special significance of the human species as the consciousness of the cosmos, the universe having emerged in such a way that it is conscious of itself. (pg. 15)
- I Cor 12:20-22 “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you,” nor again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” On the contrary, the parts of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (pg. 62)
- Salvation, at its root, is to be whole, means to be whole. And since we cannot be whole without acknowledging all of the parts that make us one, our salvation-our own wholeness-is intricately bound to the salvation of all. (pg. 62)
In Chapter 5 of Radical Amazement by Judy Cannato, we examine our self-awareness. One of the more profound statements I reflected on from this chapter was, “The consciousness of each of us is the result of the evolution of consciousness which has proceeded for eons. In us the evolving universe is capable of self-reflection.” (pg. 57) This self-awareness carries not only a wisdom but a responsibility; an understanding that our actions ripple through our connectedness and impact the rest of creation. “In the gospel of Mark, Jesus’ final words to his disciples encourages them to ‘go into all the world and preach the good news to the whole creation’ (Mark 26:15).”’ Thomas Aquinas too, saw that divinity was represented not in a single creation but in the collection of creation. In 1950, the Pope Pius saw no conflict between evolution and the faith tradition of Catholic-Christian tradition, which Pope John Paul II later confirmed.
Although evolution is confirmed more and more through various sciences, also confirmed is the reliance of various species on one another for their diversification. All creation groans together, as we read in the Bible, and participates in this creative process with one another and the Creator. “As it is, there are many parts, yet one body. The eye cannot say to the hand, ‘I have no need of you,’ nor again the head to the feet, ‘I have no need of you.’ On the contrary, the part of the body which seem to be weaker are indispensable.” (1 Cor 12:20-22) This too is true of our world, for where would we be without the tiny bee to pollenate the plants, or the little seeds, that produce all plant life which cleans the air and feeds so many creatures? Those things that seem the weakest and smallest are the least dispensable. This means our salvation, our wholeness, is tied up with one another, so that the world must too be brought to wholeness and we do this through a response of love, wisdom, and compassion. “Hubbard describes the universal human as “one who is connected through the heart to the whole of life, attuned to the deeper intelligence of nature, and called forth irresistibly by spirit to creatively express his or her gifts in the evolution of self and the world.” (pg. 64) Evolution, contrary to degrading humanity, makes us part of a universal creation of Love brought to life, recreating itself in greater complexities in relationship to one another until, after 13.7 billion years, it reaches a point of self-awareness and reflection in ourselves. This alone is a point of radical amazement.