We are the wonders of the world
Imagine you’ve never heard of the Grand Canyon before and you’re walking through the desert of Arizona, right toward it. Although you’re just a few miles away, you don’t realize you’re approaching one of creation’s most arresting masterpieces. You never dreamed anything like this could exist. You didn’t know it got this grand here on earth. You are wandering unwittingly toward one of the most extraordinary encounters of your life.
But then, just a half-mile or so from the sublime depths, you turn, still clueless of the Canyon’s proximity. You continue on, paralleling the great rim, just far enough away so that you can’t see it. Then, you veer off, the oh-so-close discovery just barely undiscovered, and you never know what you never saw.
I can only ever speak for myself, but I will venture a guess that this metaphor aptly describes the everyday experience of most of us Americans when it comes to our understanding of ourselves and of others. We do not know or cannot see the Grand Canyons here before us, and they are always before us: so long as we are in the presence of another human being, we are in the presence of one of the great wonders of the world.
But conventional perception of the world’s wonders tends toward the crude. We see mostly at the gross level, unaware of or desensitized to the wonders within us and what’s possible between us. We pass one another on the street, sit next to each other at work, eat dinner together at home, live out our days surrounded by people we think we know and people we know we don’t know. Despite our close proximity, how uncommon it is to glimpse the great depths within someone, to say nothing of the depths within ourselves.
Who would we become, if we had eyes to see these vistas of humanity, the forbidden grief, the anger long denied, the holy vulnerability of being in a body that is, despite what our culture might have us believe, perfectly beautiful?
Who would we become, if we had ears to listen with rapt attention, really listen, to what’s being said and what’s not being said, you to me and I to you and each of us always to ourselves?
Who would we become, if we had hearts that were willing to behold the vastness, which is to say, willing to feel unconditionally the full mess and magnificence of the human being, all the pain and the contradictions, and to feel also the joy of our willingness to behold?
What would happen if we knew these Grand Canyons existed? What would change in our relationship to ourselves and in our approach to one another?
I want the truth of you, the whole truth: not only your certainty, but your confusion, too. Not only your swagger, but your quivers and quakes. Who are you? Who are we? Have we even begun to find out?
Were we to begin listening, we might uncover a universe of experiences that have the power to transform our understanding of wonder: encounters with one another, unlikely conversations, spontaneous blooms of connection. We might find within those experiences an unexpected understanding of our purpose here on earth as humans: the stewards of these wonders within. We might see that the strangers walking by us on the street carry within them an intricacy and a splendor and a mystery so profound as to rival the Grand Canyon itself. We might perceive their suffering, too, unavoidably apparent or expertly disguised. In so seeing, our lives might slowly begin to change in ways we couldn’t have imagined before we were able to see what we now can’t help but see because we learned, at last, to listen.
We are not stumbling through the darkness and there is no need for a map or a guide. The wonders are everywhere, calling to us for our witness. We begin right here and now.