I can remember looking into a sparrow’s nest when I was about six or seven, gazing in wonder at the blueness of the eggs, and being overawed by the thought that they too would bring forth life. Much later I grew to appreciate William Wordsworth’s poem ‘The sparrow’s Nest’, in which he wrote about his childhood:
Behold, within the leafy shade,
Those bright blue eggs together laid!
On me the chance-discovered sight
Gleamed like a vision of delight.
Wordsworth goes on to tell us how his sister Dorothy helped him become more sensitive to what was all around him:
The Blessing of my later years
Was with me when a boy:
she gave me eyes, she gave me ears;
And humble cares, and delicate fears;
A heart, the fountain of sweet tears:
And love, and thought, and joy
We are fortunate if we have someone who has taught us to move out of ourselves and towards the wonderful world around us. The way we see things and people affects our attitudes to the world and to each other, and it is important that our vision is not impaired, or at least corrected when it is. In the Talmud there is a saying: ‘You do not see things as they are but as you are.’
Much of what we call spirituality relates to the view we have of ourselves, each other and the world, and these contribute to our perception of God. Vision involves not only eyesight, but all our senses. Seeing is not just looking: it is taking in, comprehending and, at its best, entering into harmony with that at which we gaze. As our consumer society constantly gobbles up one thing after another, making it hard for us to relish where we are or what is around us, we may need to work at resensitizing our vision and our senses. A time of withdrawal from too much activity can help us enter more deeply into life itself. sometimes, by moving away for a while we can see more clearly on our return. This idea is expressed by the character Jen in the novel ‘Father’ by Elizabeth von Arnim.
James and Jen are absorbed by the beauty of the night. They have stopped talking and are watching the old yew tree and the stars, while listening to the cry of the owl. To Jen, who in her life had hardly known what silence was, it was a revelation. She listened, dissolved in a kind of awestruck joy. It seemed to her as if she were in the presence of perfect holiness, as if she were close to the very feet of God. She who had been trained irreligiously became, in this beauty, religious. She wanted to worship and fall down; she wanted to praise the lord her Maker. And forgetting James, who anyhow was very easily forgotten, under her breath she murmured, ‘And the Glory of the Lord was revealed’. James’s heart gave a thump. That she should say what he often said to himself on similar occasions struck him as very wonderful.
It is so easy for familiarity to breed contempt, or if not contempt then a kind of blindness. We are fortunate if something suddenly opens our eyes . . .
Give thanks for your loved ones and their mystery. Acknowledge that we should never take each other for granted. Each day we can discover new depths in people. rejoice that there is always more to them than you know. There is a sense in which we are all new every morning. Think on these words:
All around us, to right and left, in front and behind, above and below, we have only to go a little beyond the frontier of sensible appearances in order to see the divine welling up and showing through. By means of all created things without exception, the divine assails us, penetrates us, moulds us. We imagined it as distant and inaccessible, whereas in fact we live steeped in its burning layers. In eo vivimus, As Jacob said, awakening from his dream, the world, this palpable world, which we were wont to treat with the boredom and disrespect with which we habitually regard places with no sacred association for us, is in truth a holy place, and we did not know it. Venite adoremus.
(Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Le Milieu Divin,
Collins Fontana, 1975, p. 112)
Disturb us, Lord, when we are too well pleased with ourselves, when our dreams have come true because we have dreamed too little, when we have arrived safely because we sailed too close to the shore.
Disturb us, Lord, when, with the abundance of things we possess, we have lost our thirst for the waters of life; having fallen in love with life, we have ceased to dream of eternity and in our efforts to build a new Earth, we have allowed our vision of the new Heaven to dim.
Disturb us, Lord, to dare more boldly to venture on wider seas where storms will show your mastery; where losing sight of land we shall find the stars.
We ask you to push back the horizons of our hopes; and push into the future in strength, courage, hope and love.
(Attributed to Sir Francis Drake)