AWE & WONDER
“For from the greatness and the beauty of created things, their [creator], by analogy, is seen.”
~ Wisdom 13:5
When Bill Wilson, one of the founding fathers of Alcoholics Anonymous wrote his apologesis for God (Entitled, oddly enough, “We Agnostics”), he wrote about a certain “awe and wonder” when describing the enchantment of the natural world. Alcoholics Anonymous, Fourth Edition, at 46, (2001) Alcoholics Anonymous World Services, Inc. New York City. It is a refrain echoed by many, whether it be a “starlight night,” Id. “a sunny mountainside,” (This Old Guitar ~John Denver 1974) or “in and around the lake.” (Roundabout ~ Yes 1971).
Yet, the song that often goes through my head (perhaps for obvious reasons) as I go out to shoot in the morning is called “Wonder” by Hillsong. Part of the chorus goes like this:
I see the world in light
I see the world in wonder
I see the world in life
Bursting in living color
Words and Music by Joel Houston & Matt Crocker, © 2017 Hillsong Music Publishing CCLI: 7084120. Of course, light, life, and living color are the underlying elements of wildlife photography. However, if I did not have a sense of wide-eyed wonder about the whole thing, I would not do it. Yet, I still cannot wait to get home to process my shots.
I wonder what it is about a natural scene or wild animal that so stirs my soul. It is something beyond me, something spiritual. I have seen something, not like the light of a tent preacher. I have seen what the creator has created, thus the creator.
I came across the above scripture passage while reading the LAUDATO SI’, by Pope Francis. ENCYCLICAL LETTER, LAUDATO SI’OF THE HOLY FATHER FRANCIS, ON CARE FOR OUR COMMON HOME, Vatican Press (2015). He begins by quoting his namesake and inspiration, Francis of Asisi: “Praise be to you, my Lord, through our Sister, Mother Earth, who sustains and governs us, and who produces various fruit with coloured flowers and herbs”. Canticle of the Creatures, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 1, New York-London-Manila, 1999. The Pope goes on the say that our “sister cries out” due to the abuse we have afflicted upon her. “We have come to see ourselves as her lords and masters, entitled to plunder her at will.” Id. at 2. Many simply do not see the earth as a reflection of the greatness and beauty of God.
Francis of Asisi, on the other hand, as described by his follower, Bonaventure tells us that “he would call creatures, no matter how small, by the name of ‘brother’ or ‘sister’”. The Major Legend of Saint Francis, VIII, 6, in Francis of Assisi: Early Documents, vol. 2, New York-London-Manila, 2000, 590. Pope Francis wrote of his namesake’s conviction:
If we approach nature and the environment without this openness to awe and wonder, if we no longer speak the language of fraternity and beauty in our relationship with the world, our attitude will be that of masters, consumers, ruthless exploiters, unable to set limits on their immediate needs. By contrast, if we feel intimately united with all that exists, then sobriety and care will well up spontaneously.
LAUDATO SI’ at 10. The Pope tells us that Francis “invites us to see nature as a magnificent book in which God speaks to us and grants us a glimpse of his infinite beauty and goodness.” Id. Simply put, we see God in God’s creation, and God is beautiful. God is good. “It amazes me and I'm so very grateful that you made the world this way.” ~ John Denver, It Amazes Me (1977).