The other day, kind of by accident, my 1-year-old figured out how to drink from a straw. He put his mouth on the tube attached to the cup in his hand and started sucking–recreationally, it seems. I don’t think he had any expectations that something interesting would happen. His face, as cold milk pooled into his mouth, registered shock, surprise, delight–and, dare I say it–wonder.
Watching kids learn how things work down here on Earth is, as every parent knows, hilarious, amazing, and even inspiring. Seeing kids’ excitement when they pet a puppy, see fireworks, eat ice cream (or a lemon slice), or just find a good stick on the sidewalk can be magical for a lot of reasons–including the fact that they remind us how to encounter the world fresh ourselves.
The 20th century rabbi and theologian Abraham Joshua Heschel writes often about “radical amazement,” that sense of “wow” about the world, as the root of spirituality. It’s the kind of thing that people often experience in nature, for example, on the proverbial mountaintop. But not only–a lot of it is about bringing that sense of awe into the little things we often take for granted, or consider part of the background of our lives. This includes not only flowers on the side of the road, the taste of ice cream in our mouths, or how groovy it is to use a straw, but also things we generally don’t even think of as pleasures, like the warm soapy water on our hands as we wash dishes. Read the rest of this entry →