The Wonder of it All
One of my favorite summer guilty pleasures when I was a child came through a most wonderful little transistor radio given to me by my uncle, a gift he brought back from his travels to Japan. My AM radio was 2 & 1/2 by 2 & 1/2 inches square, complete with an ear plug. (In in those days you only got one ear worth of sound since the radio was mono and not stereo.) I would sneak my radio into bed with me since it was easy to hide, and once the 'coast was clear' I would turn on that spectacular device and travel to places far away for a little girl living in Long Island, NY. Once night came, distant signals would become clearer since many stations went off the air, so I would find stations from far away cities, listening to things like a baseball game in St. Louis, Missouri, a talk show in Florida, and even a show originating in Toronto, Canada! Ah, the wonder of it all!
My favorite memory with my radio was one particular July 4th; it must have been 10 PM or so, but it felt like an exotic hour to me. I had the window open and was feeling the slightest breeze as I turned on my radio and tuned into a thrilling re-enactment of the 1812 bombing of Fort McHenry which came from the Baltimore area. They were "bombing" the Fort with a fireworks show, which culminated with the playing of the Star Spangled Banner, all the while giving a "play by play" of what was happening not only in the Harbor, but to Francis Scott Key as he penned his famous lyrics. I could not see it, obviously, but the thrill of my imagination filling in for sight, listening to the sounds, and the words of the commentator, was incredible. Oh, how I loved my little radio as I listened to far off places in the night!
The world has changed since then, especially the world of technology. While I love today's technology with its instant access to the universe, I really do miss those days when one could turn on an AM radio in the night and listen to places which were far off, enabling the imagination to run wild and free. It truly was a wonder to me that my little battery-operated device, small enough to fit in the palm of my hand - (sound familiar?) - had the ability to be so educational, and oh, so much fun. I am sure my mother was aware of my late night listening, though I thought I was quite surreptitious. But it was the most wonderful experience to be had night after summer night, listening to these shows, broadcasted from places far from my bedroom in my Long Island neighborhood.
What I learned from that experience is that it does not take much to find wonder in our world and in our lives. One might argue that I entertain easily, but having a sense of wonder and awe is important to God. After all, He gave us that gift when we received the Sacrament of Confirmation. We indeed have an abundance of modern conveniences and technologies which are mind-boggling in how they work. There is much wonder in that. But sometimes I think we can miss the wonder in the world around us because we can take it for granted due to the very same technological gadgets that bring it to our fingertips. It is easy to have so much access that we lose the sense of awe at what is in the world outside of the realm of our computer screens. It is more fun to experience something "in real time" than on a screen, though I grant that we can see things there that we would not have access to otherwise. But my point is that we should never lose the sense of wonder that is behind all that technology by taking the sheer magnitude of it for granted.
God has given us the gift of nature, that is, the gift of all of creation. Those who live in cities can be left breathless when seeing the Milky Way, away from the lights that cloak it, and those who live in more rural places might be inspired by seeing the wonders of city architecture. But it is important that we truly allow ourselves to see what is around us no matter where we are. Every day the sky looks different and every day we meet people who are also wondrous if we allow ourselves to see them as such. Everyone has a story to tell, and each one is unique and worth telling.
I wonder what the Israelites thought as they were traversing the desert. Did they see the rock formations and the day-to-day paths as wondrous or as tedious? Given that they were wandering, I am sure it became boring just as the repetitions we go through as we drive to work daily can become flat and dull. Have you ever arrived at work and wondered how you got there? That is because it was so routine that we automatically did what we needed to do in order to arrive; therefore we really did not “register” any of the trip. While not every moment of every day can be exciting, (it would be foolish to think that this would be so), we can see things within seemingly routine actions at a deeper level if we allow the Lord to open our eyes to the wonder of it all. The ancient Celts, for example, had prayers that were about the seemingly mundane, such as thanking the Trinity for the gift of the hearth fire, or the cow they were milking, or the stream they were crossing to get into town. As a result, they noticed, and in noticing, they found God's action within just about everything. In seeing God's action, with wonder and awe, they found Him.
Throughout our reading of Scripture we can actually be in the passages we are praying if we use the gift of imagination God has given us. St. Ignatius of Loyola taught those making the Spiritual Exercises to compose the scene in their minds and hearts and to enter into it while in prayer. He knew that God is not limited by time and space, so when we enter into prayer through the power of the Holy Spirit, we are really there in the place and time we are considering. Therefore when you read about the Israelites wandering in the desert, you can enter the wandering with them, seeing and feeling in your own experience, gaining insight into what God may be revealing to you through the passage of Scripture. You can be present as Elijah called down God's fire to prove to the pagans that He is the one true God. (1 Kings 18) You can witness Jesus healing the bleeding woman or the man with the withered hand, and be present as He spoke the challenging Sermon on the Mount.
When we read Scripture we can be transported into the stories, allowing God to reveal what He wants us to learn. He wants us to understand His presence not only to the people of Israel throughout history, but to become more attentive to His presence in our own journeying. He wants our eyes to go wide with awe when we learn to see His handiwork in the nature around us, whether in our own backyard or in our travels. He wants us to see, hear, touch, smell, and taste the wonders of His creation. And He wants us to experience the uniqueness of each person with whom we come in contact in order to come to see our own uniqueness and beauty. Hopefully we will come away saying about the world, ourselves, and others: "Ah, the wonder of it all!"
It is easy to only focus on the negative things going on in the world or in our personal lives. We need not become as Pollyanna, only seeing through rose-colored glasses; that could be dangerous. But we need to see the beauty around us, lest we become jaded by the constant barrage of negative news we are exposed to daily. There is much beauty in the world which we take for granted often enough. Let us allow the Lord to open our eyes, as He did with the blind people He healed in the Gospels, so that we may see with our eyes and with our hearts the beauty which abounds which we often simply do not see. Perhaps this is what Jesus meant when He said we need to be like little children. Maybe He was trying to say that we need to stay filled with the wonder and awe that children have in seeing things that no one else sees. Maybe having an attitude of wonder, such as listening to a little radio into the night and hearing things broadcast from afar with eyes alight, is the attitude that we need to keep in order to really see the beauty of creation.
May we have the eyes to see and the ears to hear the wonders of the Lord! May we have the gift of renewed wonder and awe! May we have the heart of a child, open to the presence of beauty around us! May we be filled with gratitude for the wonders of creation and be moved to be more aware of our responsibility to take care of our planet! May we have reverence for all the Lord has made, especially our brothers and sisters! Let us continue to meet in the Heart of the God of All Creation in wonder and awe! Peace!
The radio depicted at the top is not the radio I had, but it is as close as I could get. Mine was in a black plastic body, and had a key ring on the end, rather than a medallion. It was also perfectly square. This one is a Sony ICR-120. I do not remember what model mine was.
The middle and end photos are from my recent trip to Sicily.
© Michele L. Catanese
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