What does the world look like through wonder-less eyes? This idea was first introduced to me through a Carl Sagan/Stephen Hawking YouTube video compilation extolling the “wonders of the universe.” After watching, I asked myself, “Why I would ever consider the splendors of the cosmos? If all the material in the universe is arranged through purposeless interactions between particles, why do I care if there is gravity-bent color or incomprehensible space between quasars?”
In a strictly materialistic world, there is no such thing as the absurd or the awesome. Such high praise for the unreachable, unknown is empty and ridiculous.
I took a meal with a successful farmer from Northeastern Uganda. We talked crops and fertilizers and managing market instabilities. He really knew his trade and I learned a lot in a short time. As the conversation progressed, I asked him a worldview question which was troubling me.
“Have you ever seen a sunset?” I asked. His response powerful in its simplicity. “It is there,” he said. I believed I knew what he meant, but I pressed further just in case I was mistaken. “What I mean to ask…Have you ever looked at the sun as it goes down or as it comes up and been amazed by the colors in the sky or how quickly it moves?” The look on his face was answer enough. He did speak, however. “No, it is there, it is always there. To look at it, no, it is just there.”
I thanked him for his candor and explained why I would ask such a seemingly silly question. He listened thoughtfully as I explained how the Bible presents creation as an expression of God’s glory and, as a result, I see wonder in the colors of the sky and the diversity of the bird-life and the intricacies of the patterns in the leaves of the trees.
My farmer friend agreed that God is good and the gift of ground that produces life-giving food is indeed a blessing; but to be amazed by the dirt or the sky? He was skeptical at best.
The history of the Western world is being revised daily to exclude or at least diminish our deeply religious roots. The foundation upon which the West is built is suffering erasure at an breakneck rate. As we in the West insist on adopting a strictly materialistic worldview, we create a vacuum into which the capacity to be amazed by “nature” will disappear. We are who we are, in part, because all we have known for thousands of years is the wonder of a creation (yes, creation) that is full of the splendor and beneficence of the One (or, for some, ‘the many’) who caused nature to come into being.
We all will soon lose that wonder in spite of video protestations to the contrary. If all we know is the result of its existence, then the rising and setting of the sun becomes irrelevant, so long as it is there. Even our knowledge of our diversity as humans will become an endless, self-consuming, mindless pursuit resulting in our becoming the fictional zombies with which we Westerners seem to be so fascinated: instinctively struggling to survive in senseless semi-death.
I don’t want this. I want my Ugandan friends to be astounded by the exquisitely vibrant bird life, the various tree leaves, the way the grass appears to sparkle in the wind and the rising and setting of the sun. When I point these things out, my Ugandan friends are quick to see something to care for, and to nurture, and to give praise to God just because “it is there.” I yearn for my American friends never to lose this once innate capacity to be awestruck by nature and more importantly by the knowledge of the God who put things “there.”
Today’s global culture, especially in the Western world, is losing its capacity to be amazed. We are instead consuming disposable clips on the internet, giving the thumbs up or down, and then moving on to the next station of entertainment. I could press the point by describing our lack of interest in craftsmanship and our preference to avoid long, deep conversations about substantive issues…
“Has any other god dared to take a nation for himself out of another nation by means of trials, miraculous signs, wonders, war, a strong hand, a powerful arm, and terrifying acts? Yet that is what the Lord your God did for you in Egypt, right before your eyes. He showed you these things so you would know that the Lord is God and there is no other.” (Deuteronomy 4:34–35, NLT emphasis added)