Walt Whitman and Wonder

I found myself thinking recently about something Denis Haack said at a L’abri Conference: “If you are too busy for wonder, you are too busy.”

I find it so easy to be practical in my daily life. I drive my car. I breath the air. I am awakened by the sun in my window in the morning. I greet my friends. And I make the mistake of calling it all merely “normal” and taking it for granted. The life I live and the world I inhabit are supposed to make me say “thank you” to God. They are supposed to make me wonder, but too often I am too busy for it. I certainly don’t feel any of it to be a miracle.

Walt Whitman didn’t make that mistake. In his poem, Miracles, he wrote:

“As to me I know of nothing else but miracles…

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,

Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,

Every square yard of the surface of the Earth is spread with the same…”

Read the rest of the poem here. Whitman goes on to talk about the miracles he sees in the everyday things of life. When he “watches honeybees around a hive” or “stands under trees in the woods” or “talk by day with anyone [he] loves” it all seems to be suffused with a special significance to him.

Reading Miracles one gets the sense that Whitman walked through the world with wide open eyes, marvelling at everything he saw. I think this is how God would have us live. After all, he made the world to be delighted in and to draw our affections toward himself.

Wonder is the appropriate response to living. The Bible teaches that we live in a universe created by an infinite God and we will spend eternity staring into his beauties and the beauties of what he has made. It means we shouldn’t miss sunsets. We should practice the discipline of seeing the Lord’s hand in the things he has made. We should hold our breath and wait for the next unfurling of a clear blue sky, or ring of laughter, or grace of friendship.

As Whitman said, “These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles…”


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