Last week’s post inspired a series of connected thoughts that I intend to share with you all in sequence.
Looking at little Timmy’s enthusiasm for the same thing again and again raised in me an obvious question, what are the things that I, as an adult, never tire of watching? The obvious things – an open fire, a star-filled sky at night, a sunlit valley viewed from a mountaintop, my children or dogs when happily playing – but something that reliably captivates my attention for hours on end is the subject of one of the shortest poems posted here, flowing water, best of all a mountain stream.
The ripples and stationary waves that form around the obstacles in its path or due to hydraulic jumps, the dips and rises in depth in response to narrowing and widening flow channels, the various paths the water takes, some of them partially hidden from view under rocks and other obstacles, the myriad little waterfalls, whirlpools and vortices, the calmer pools that seem to invite you in, the underwater grasses that waft in the current, the fact that the tiniest twig can disturb the flow, but usually not even the mightiest tree trunk can fully stop it, the water just eventually finds a way around or over and it’s off again. As you might be able to tell, I studied fluid mechanics as part of my degree, in fact it was a demonstration of fluid mechanics that first drew me to chemical engineering as a field.
Did my increased knowledge of the forces involved in these fluid formations reduce my sense of wonder when witnessing them? Not at all, they helped me to identify and appreciate them even more, and opened my eyes to a whole new level of possibilities to explore and enjoy. I since found similar enjoyment from learning about scientific discoveries in other fields or philosophical perspectives that showed me new ways to think and approach subjects and aspects of reality I hadn’t considered before. That feeling you get when your horizons broaden, it’s such a magical elation. Just like the soaring you experience when you see a highly skilled sportsman or artist do something extraordinary and beautiful.
Once you become a parent, you get the added bonus of watching your children discover the world and how it works, you have the chance to rediscover how amazing the things you used to regard as ordinary are. The world can become magical again, and you can start to look for that magic everywhere.
I’m currently sitting in our car outside my second son’s music school while he has his piano lesson, typing this on my wife’s laptop, it’s about the only time when I’m guaranteed to not be disturbed, and have no internet access to distract me, so I use the opportunity to write.
I look through the windscreen and ahead there’s a small cobbled square. In that square almost exactly in front of me there’s a great big tree, maybe 60 feet tall. It’s lost almost all of it’s leaves and the light dusting of snow on it highlights the filigree’d majesty of its branch structure against the darkening eveing sky. Magical.
Ten or so minutes ago there was a group of teenagers in the square. One of the boys stood up from the group and did a little dance with some impressive footwork, both to combat the cold and perhaps impress his girlfriend, a little outburst of joy to warm the body and heart. Magical.
To my left there is a children’s playground, with a sandpit, slides and swings, a little treehouse with ladders, steps, ropes and climbing walls to get in, poles and slides to get down. There are no children there right now, but with a little imagination you can see them escaping to other worlds as they play. Magical.
To my right the tops of a row of snow-topped hedge plants just peek above an old stone wall. What else has been lovingly cultivated there out of sight? The beauty and mystery of a private walled garden. Magical.
Magic, magic everywhere, if only we would stop to look.
People sometimes say they think heaven would be boring, but what if these things we never (or hardly ever) tire of here on earth, the wonders that fill us with awe, were just light foretastes of what it will be like to stand in the presence of the source of them all, in whom there is infinitely more to discover, explore, enjoy and be amazed at? Isn’t that something worth looking forward to?
Next in the series: The Joy of Consciousness