I feel extremely fortunate that I am able to extract honey from just about any philosophical, psychological or religious flower I happen to land on. I have often said if I lived in a town with only one church, no matter what that church might be, I could go there and find soul food. Even in the muddiest shells, we can find a pearl.
I guess “soul food” is as good a phrase as any to describe that inner need we all have for inspiration and insight. If I landed in a town with no church, I could meet that inner need by walking in the woods or by the ocean or sitting and listening to a babbling brook.
A lot of my inspiration and insight comes from sitting down to lunch with people who think creatively. I carefully plan my meals with friends who nurture my inner being. When I get home, I sift back through the conversation and pull out little golden nuggets of thought and deposit them in my personal journal. Anytime I need a good idea or a shot of inspiration, you will see me running to one of my journals.
A sense of wonder captured me long ago when I saw the great delight it gave my mother. Many mornings she would look out on the world and clap her hands in joy over the gift of a new day. I tried to capture that sense of wonder in these words to one of my songs:
A rose can make me sigh
With a drop of dew in the corner of its eye
And sometimes a sunset
Can make me laugh and cry
Instead of feasting on each other’s best thoughts, we sometimes polarize ourselves by just looking at our differences. Who could have dreamed we would get to the point of saying, “Here’s how I love God and if you don’t love God exactly like I do, I will kill you.”
The very idea that the Creator could be any part of the holocausts of hate, insanity and pointless pain we inflict on each other is an insult to the Creator and humankind as the Creator’s handiwork.
A sense of wonder over the beauty that surrounds us in nature and in the lives of genuinely good people can keep us out of the blenders we so easily fall into. If you give your children no other gift, this will save them from despair and keep a spark of creativity alive in them.
One Sunday when I was in elementary school I spent the whole day watching a large anthill, studying how they broke up balls of bread I laid out for them and how they got the larger balls into their underground storage area. When mother woke me Monday morning I said, “Doggone it, I wanted to finish studying that ant hill!” She said, “I think that’s as important as anything they could teach you today so stay home and do that.”
It was not a ploy to get out of school, although I was entirely capable of such behavior. It was the hypnotic power of a sense of wonder she imparted to me in her own life.
In the study hall room at Tyner High School stood a large bookcase with the entire set of books called The Harvard Classics. In the 10th grade when I made poor grades, I read that whole set of books. I discovered authors I would treasure the rest of my life. If I could swap that experience for a straight-A report card, I would not think of it. Good grades will get you through school but a sense of wonder will get you through life.
A friend once told me, “When you can lie on a blanket in the yard and watch a full moon for hours, you can finally say, ‘I have learned to live.’”
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