Friday, May 14, 2021

The Kingdom of Astonishment

This is not the spiritually materialist mindfulness practiced by corporations seeking to improve employee productivity. This is not the sterile “peacefulness” that helps you better accommodate oppression. No, this is ecstatic participation with the natural world. This is the inter-penetrative experience of awe that only occurs when you realize the world is a polyphony of aliveness. “Split a piece of wood. I am there. Life up the stone and you will find me there,” instructs Jesus. The “me” he speaks of is not himself, but the kingdom of astonishment. The fragrant pith of the cedarwood entering your nostrils is the kingdom. The awe you feel at the moonlight-silvered grub under the stone is the secret gospel. 

We live in a moment when we are woefully blind to the kingdom. Sensory gating, the neurological process of filtering out “redundant” stimuli from our sensual experience to create a homogenized reality, has been tightened by patriarchy and civilization. We quite literally do not see “what is in front of our faces”. Reading stories of miracles in older texts we laugh at our ancestor’s “belief” in magic. But what if the magic was still there? As we codify expectations, we limit our ability to experience surprise and awe. In short, it gets harder and harder to change our minds and experience the marvel under a stone or in a piece of wood. We expect the ordinary, and receive it in return, growing increasingly despondent each day, even when just beyond our blinders mountains move and kingdoms explode from mustard seeds. Lucky that our brains are malleable. There are still methods of “dilating” into greater participation with the divine animacy of the natural world.

- Sophie Strand


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