When I was growing up in the 1970's we had a glossy pottery Buddha on shelf in the living room. It was a gift my parents received. I had no idea what the Budda symbolized but he was such a cute and happy chubby little guy that I loved him. I thought he was a magic genie and you were supposed to rub his tummy and make a wish. I'd invite the neighborhood kids over to make their own wishes too.
Please let Mary be able to spend the night tonight, I would wish extra hard while rubbing in clockwise circles on the familiar bulge. And sometimes they actually came true, for my wishes were often quite simple. I remember thinking about God then too. I couldn't have been more than four or five. I would hold our metal cross that I wasn't supposed to be holding or playing with. Dried palms from the previous Palm Sunday tucked underneath. What does it all mean? What was the world before I was born? How do I know I was born? Why did God pick to create me? What existed before God made man? Will it hurt if I staple my finger? (I tried and it did). I looked around at the world, or my feet and it astonished me. It was almost painful to think about how outrageous everything about being alive felt.
And now so many years later I've changed but stayed exactly the same. I can easily fall deep into a well of thinking. I need thinking like a drug, it keeps me company yet it tortures me daily. I think that's why I love the author Donald Miller. I can follow the path of his thinking mind. I like his take on God. I picked up his book, A Million Miles in a Thousand Years today (which should TOTALLY be required reading for college and LIFE), just to get a quick morsel of words and thought. I do that sometimes with the Bible. Randomly open a page like- Hey God! Wadda you have in store for me today?! And then I read something random that I usually don't even understand at all.
"Do not give what is holy to dogs, or throw your pearls before swine, lest they trample them underfoot, and turn and tear you to pieces " Umm.... okay. What does that look like in 2014, God? Because I'm up for an adventure but I'm not quite sure what that just said. And I actually don't have any pearls. Or pigs.
So today I did it with A Million Miles in a Thousand Years. At least once a year I re-read this book because it reminds me how I want to live and look at life and beauty and God. It seems like there's nothing more important than that- HOW TO BE ALIVE- but I trick myself into believing the little things matter. The stupid things. I opened randomly to page 57 and felt like the earth was conspiring to make this exact moment occur. Woah. Never before have I so thoroughly believed a message was so specifically selected for me to hear.
My friend Anna works at a soup kitchen, a cafe downtown run by Catholics. I volunteered there one day, cutting celery, and there was another woman working who had a son who was autistic. Her son sat in a booth and stared at his hands, flicking his fingers in front of his face, watching them like flames.
The boy's mother said he was autistic and sometimes spaced out, staring at his hands, but because I didn't know what autism was, really, I figured he was more of less mesmerized by his existence. I was romanticizing the situation because the kid was probably distracting himself or daydreaming or something, but I thought maybe he was like Hamlet looking at his hands, thinking sincerely about what it means to have been born.
Back when I got out of high school, I used to think about stuff like that all the time. It was a phase, I think, but I used to suddenly realize I was alive and human. I felt like I was in a movie and had two cameras for eyes, and I'd swivel my head around as though I were moving my cameras atop a tripod. I even wrote a poem about it and said we were "spirit bound by flesh, held up by bone and trapped in time." Back then I wondered why nobody else realized what a crazy experience we were all having. Back then I'd be lying in bed or walking down a hallway at college, and the realization I was alive would startle me, as though it had come up from behind and slammed two books together. We get robbed of the glory of life because we aren't capable of remembering how we got here. When you are born, you wake slowly to everything. Your brain doesn't stop growing until you turn twenty-six, so from birth to twenty-six, God is slowly turning the lights on, and you're groggy and pointing at things saying circle and blue and car and then sex and job and health care. The experience is so slow you could easily come to believe life isn't that big of a deal, that life isn't staggering and we're just used to it. We are all like spoiled children no longer impressed with we're given- it's just another sunset, just another rainstorm moving in over the mountain, just another child being born, just another funeral.
AMAZING- right?! Maybe YOU are blown away and were supposed to hear it too. Parker and Grey do that with their hands and I always think- They see something amazing right now that I cannot see. Life really is staggering. I don't want to take for granted how incredible it is that the sun sets every night- and it is BEAUTIFUL. And our feet- just inches long hold up our entire body. And our tiny little eyes get to see ALL the things in the world that we let them look at. I want to look at things and be amazed.
It helps having little kids and fresh eyes to be amazed. It's so easy that it almost feels like cheating.
Exploring down the street at an inlet of the San Joaquin River at the nature conservatory. It's like a big piping cup of Heaven.
(No one fell in the pond today.)
And exploring at a Fish Hatchery, a place they grow Trout and Salmon, with Grandma and Grandpa (my parents) who are in town from St. Louis Missouri for the week. We are so lucky! My sisters arrive tomorrow.
I'm always amazed that the fish intuitively fight the current that would pull them into the next pool. It's exactly the same experience, the same water, the same temperature- but they flip and buck and fight it like mad. It's easy for me to think them silly for doing that because I have the big picture view. Us humans do it all the time too. Sometimes it's good to stop fighting the current and just let go.
Preparing to be astonished by ice cream
Mission totally accomplished
And cake. Why the heck not- we are Summer adventuring. Turning it over and shaking out every last drop.
If you don't have kids don't let that stop you from soaking up the every day as if it were an astonishing experience. Because it is. Poet, Mary Oliver wrote: Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.
Some days I really do believe it's that easy.
Big fat hugs,