sustaining wonder ~mark nepo

In one atom are found all the elements of the earth; in one motion are found all the motions of existence; in one drop of water are found all the secrets of the endless oceans; in one aspect of you are found all the aspect of life.

~Kahlil Gibran

As humans we are relentlessly in cycle. The mind builds a shell to protect its turtle-spirit, but the shell muffles the spirit, till outgrowing the shell we devise ways to break it. We build the shell, then tear it down. We build it thinner. We tear it down. Yet only between constructions are we thoroughly touched. Only between encasements are we punctured by love.

But we are not to be blamed. All of nature is conscripted to such a cycle. Trees grow moss, silver tarnishes, the mind is dulled by the growth of its conceptions; and likewise, a storm removes the moss, a scratch breaks through the tarnish, and crisis reveals the raw surface of the mind.

Time builds and erodes and we are transformed, yet the same. Wind gathers sand to a dune and tide undermines the dune. It’s how the early years pack us and the later ones softly flood us without a sound. We have no choice but to withstand the film that constantly builds and to endure the erosion that inevitably follows.

Of course, for humans this dance of film and erosion is not merely physical. It affects our thinking, feeling, seeing, and being. How easily and repeatedly we dull and brighten. How easily we become chronic amnesiacs of spirit, drifting into observation and analysis when we stop participating and experiencing. Then we wake one day forgetting the feel of life, while incredibly attuned to its silhouette. We can see it so clearly, each perplexity and nuance, yet why can’t we feel it? In this way, the mind grows thoughts and words the way the planet grows trees, so much that we no longer see the heavens, and so we need to chop down what we thing and say, and yes, silence is an ax.

In truth, our aliveness depends on our ability to sustain wonder; to lengthen the moments we are truly uncovered, to be still and quiet till all the elements of the earth and all the secrets of the oceans stir the aspects of life waiting within us.

  • The next time you walk outside, let the cold air wash over your closed eyes.
  • Take a deep breath, and let the air wash off the film of memory or thought you are struggling with.
  • Feel your blood flush your face, and open your eyes freshly.

~Mark Nepo, The Book of Awakening


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