We live in a world in which we are surrounded by wonders. Every birth, every breath we take, every beat of our hearts, every one of the untold millions of brain synapse connections made, every seed that sprouts, every bird that flies, and every deer that gracefully leaps through the forest is a wonder of life. Each instance of this unfolding is worthy unto itself, and yet, attempting to fathom each one would quickly reduce us to the appearance of blithering fools – or something very much like it. But if we go on blithely ignoring these wonders that constantly surround us, we are more likely to become absorbed by the negative, the fearful, the hateful, to be consumed by that which demands our immediate attention. This, then, becomes the world in which we come to believe we live in. It can become our reality, even though it may not be the full truth.
The problem is not so much a matter of the actual imbalance of wonder and negativity. The problem in coping with negativity lies in our difficulty in assigning the appropriate amount of relative psychological weight to our many experiences of the world.
When I was teaching, every day at school I had perhaps hundreds of positive student contacts. Smiles or polite greetings were exchanged, a door held, a question asked and answered, encouragement given and received. If, on that same day, I had to deal with one unreasonable, impolite or defiant student, it may come as no surprise that what would occupy my mind as I tried to relax in the evening was the one disturbing contact, not the hundreds of agreeable ones. Indeed, the one disturbing contact would psychologically outweigh all the other contacts put together. Why should this be? Can we gain control over this seemingly imbalanced state of affairs? I don’t know, but I think it might be worth trying to do.
I do know that noticing and acknowledging wonders, even if we only give them a moment’s notice, a breath of acknowledgement, helps to build the wondrous, positive inventory of our daily experience of life, therefore giving it greater presence in our consciousness.
One night, for example, my partner and I went out for a short walk, after saying goodnight to other guests for the evening. It was a cool night, a degree or two above freezing. The air was fresh, bracing without being bitterly cold. We walked quietly, at an easy-going pace, neither shuffling, nor striding. Some syllabic-sounding squawks were heard that sounded much like indistinct, infantile gibberish. I knew immediately what it was, but waited for my partner to comment on the sound, which she did in short order.
“What was that sound?” she asked.
“Geese,” I replied.
“They fly at night?” she inquired.
“Sure,” I said, “You know, ‘…wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings…’ and all that. I’ve seen them flying at night many times.”
Then we both looked skyward to see if we could locate the formation of geese.
Here! Here was my wonder for the evening!
It was a cloudy night, so there was no moon on the wings of these geese. But what we saw was an irregular V formation of geese, about 20 geese in total, flying very high in the sky, in their typically asymmetrical formation. They were totally white geese, that stood out in distinct contrast to the dark grey overcast, making only the occasional garbled squawk, impressive in their quiet for the number aloft, winging their way earnestly northwest, long distance travellers. They were apprehended, noticed, acknowledged by us, in their wondrous flight. It seemed an almost spiritual experience. Were they Snow Geese, rather than Canada Geese? I can’t say for certain, they were flying too high for visual identification, but they all seemed to be perfectly white, almost glowingly white. What a vision it was! How perfect they were. ‘Spirit Geese’ is what they were to me and this is how I prefer to remember them. They were, “Who knows what, flying who knows where?” – lending even more credibility to the mystical nature of this transient vision of these distant, insubstantial, spirit birds of the night.
Then we resumed our walk, each of us knowing that we had been blessed to have seen one of life’s many wonders. We had noticed what we saw, and we appreciated and acknowledged the beauty of the scene. And still, we have yet another day, today, in which many such opportunities await notice!