Why is it that in watching, or seeing, someone else’s experience of wonder and awe we are often moved to tears and delight ourselves? Does something connect within us? Something more universally true about our humanity?
A short, independent film came out a few years ago entitled “A View of the Moon.” Given the title, you might assume the three-minute film is about, well, the moon. What it looks like. Its landscape. Its relationship to our planet. Or maybe something about NASA and space travel.
But it’s really about something else. It is, in fact (in just 3 minutes), all about us – about humanity and what we can be when we are at our best and most hopeful.
If you have a minute (or three), I invite you to check it out here.
Meanwhile, I included the Calvin & Hobbes image above as inspiration, perhaps, to go outside tonight, after dark, and to look to the southeastern horizon to see the largest full moon of the year (also known as the Buck Moon by many indigenous people of our nation, because of its association with the time of year deer’s antlers become fully grown). If you didn’t see it last night, you can still see the 98% full Buck Moon tonight. It should be astonishing!
In the film (I’m assuming you’ve checked it out now – spoiler alert if you haven’t), videographer Wylie Overstreet is bored in his LA apartment one night and gets an idea to take his high-powered telescope and set it up on the sidewalk, focused on the moon. As people walk by, they ask him what he’s looking at and he invites them to take a look. Their responses over the next few nights, in several different settings, are both a delight to watch and awe-inspiring.
And somehow, in seeing their responses, you might have also discovered a curious insight – in seeing someone else’s naïve experience of wonder and awe we are often moved to tears and delight ourselves. Is there something there at the heart of our being, like individual drops or waves in the ocean suddenly discovering we are part of the same mysterious and wonder-filled reality?
When we stop and notice, and invite others to notice, there is a deep sense of transcendence, of the oneness of being, both the mystery and the interconnectedness of life. Religiously, we can speak of God in this way; though the nameless mystery itself may be enough to inspire some to act with more compassion and justice toward others, and creation itself, without the need for “belief and doctrine.”
But just to look up at the moon, or the millions upon millions of stars and galaxies, and consider that we are, in fact, also of that same carbon “star dust”. Astonishing!
I had a conversation with a good friend recently, reflecting on the emotional drive of so many people who feel the need to “make something of themselves,” to” be somebody”, to “make their mark”. It is part and parcel of us all regardless of our status or place in life. It is especially true of our WEIRD culture (westernized, industrial, educated, rich, democracy).
“It’s both a ‘gift… and a curse’*,” I said. “Such existential questioning, on the one hand, may be the very impetus that compels us to do great things. On the other hand, it can be an insidiously anxiety-driven lifestyle that is doomed to always feel incomplete.”
My friend added that he was thinking about this the other night, “You know, what’s the whole point then? You live and, even if you make a big splash, you still die; and it all eventually fades away into nothing. Nothing really matters in the end. You don’t matter and I don’t matter. None of us matters.”
He paused, “Wait! We ARE matter. So, we’re all interconnected matter in seen and unseen ways.”
Here’s how Emerson put it, “Every particular in nature, a leaf, a drop, a crystal, a moment of time is related to the whole and partakes of the perfection of the whole.”
Or the Christian mystic, Meister Eckhart, “The eye with which I see God is the same with which God sees me. My eye and God’s eye is one eye, and one sight, and one knowledge, and one love.”
Calvin looks out into the dark, star-bespeckled night sky and shouts, “’I’m SIGNIFICANT! … said the speck of dust.”
But then later we find him standing with Hobbes starring into that same endless space with renewed wonder and awe, “If people stood outside and looked at the stars each night, I bet they would live a lot differently.”
I’d like to think so. We’re taking our telescope into town tonight to take another look and see who else might want in on the wonder.
I hope you are doing well and can sneak some time away to experience the immensely significant piece you play in the creative wonder of love, justice, and delight we call God.
*quoting Adrian Monk from the television series, Monk.