How to Sustain Your Sense of Wonder and Awe

Since Baha’u’llah’s advent in the middle of the 19th century, humanity has witnessed a time of miraculous growth and global regeneration unprecedented in the annals of world history. 

The technological, literary, scientific, and information explosion and advancement in the almost 180 years since the inception of the Baha’i Faith far surpasses the millennia of progress that preceded it. The number of books and scientific documents spanning the last two centuries numerically exceeds everything written since the Epic of Gilgamesh 4000 years ago. 

In terms of technology, transportation, and telecommunications in particular, we have unlocked miraculous realities. Just try to imagine how those who lived more than two centuries ago would regard airplanes, cellphones, and the foretelling of future events like the weather or the appearance of comets in the heavens. 

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From another angle, today many children are exposed to the widest imaginable variety of entertainment, media outlets, food, sweets, and virtually everything that the wealthiest past emperors, kings, and princes could barely dream of possessing. Similarly, a simple Bedouin can drive an air-conditioned vehicle while listening to music when commuting from country to country for a few days. Even royalty, in a subsequent age, had to ride horses or camels exposed to the elements and at times climb mountains and traverse canyons for months on end before reaching their intended destination.

Baha’is regard each of these leaps in societal progress as part of the outpouring outcome of Baha’u’llah’s revelation. Baha’u’llah’s writings testify to this regenerative power, spiritual in nature but, like the sun, imparting new life to all things:

Through the movement of Our Pen of glory We have, at the bidding of the omnipotent Ordainer, breathed a new life into every human frame, and instilled into every word a fresh potency. All created things proclaim the evidences of this world-wide regeneration.

Despite this surreal, almost fantastical evidence of “worldwide regeneration,” we can lose our sense of wonder and awe if we’re not careful. When we get a new phone, travel to a new country, witness groundbreaking scientific breakthroughs, and so forth we might get momentarily thrilled – then, over time, we begin to take these advances for granted. They become part of the normal course of things and our wonder goes missing.

This desensitization, if we’re not careful, may seep into our spiritual lives, too.

That has happened to many, me included. Initially, when I became a Baha’i, the Baha’i writings would strike awe and goosebump-inducing wonder into my life. However, through the passage of time, circumstantial events, etc., those wondrous Writings can lose their striking influence for some readers if we let that happen. 

I have a personal example: when serving at the Baha’i World Centre in the Holy Land, I lived within the vicinity of the Baha’i Shrines. At first, it exhilarated me to be able to visit the Shrines daily, but as months rolled by, I gradually became used to it and, at times, even took it for granted. 

Eventually, I learned that being in a state of wonder requires an inquisitive, investigative mind, a thirst for truth, and an attraction to beauty. I learned, too, that I can sustain those qualities by immersing myself in the Baha’i writings, which consistently inspire my heart, my soul, and my mind.

The best scientists and theologians alike sustain a near-constant state of amazement and gratitude because of their awe-inspiring insights and discoveries – and because of their own inner qualities and attitudes. They refrain from slipping into the trap of complacency and passivity by nurturing a searching eye, a thirst for truth, and a hunger for knowledge. They sustain their childlike wonder by consistently recognizing the miraculous nature of reality, both physical and spiritual.

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The first time we witness something brand new – a new revelation, a new experience, a new country – we feel wonderstruck at the moment of discovery. But maintaining a searching, investigative mind, which always finds fresh discoveries and attains higher levels of knowledge, allows us to discover multifaceted views of beauty. 

In his mystical book The Seven Valleys, Baha’u’llah wrote:

… if we ponder each created thing, we shall witness a myriad perfect wisdoms and learn a myriad new and wondrous truths …

O friend, the heart is the dwelling of eternal mysteries, make it not the home of fleeting fancies; waste not the treasure of thy precious life in employment with this swiftly passing world. Thou comest from the world of holiness – bind not thine heart to the earth; thou art a dweller in the court of nearness – choose not the homeland of the dust.

I’ve learned that a daily reading of the Baha’i writings keeps my inner being busy pondering each created thing and witnessing a myriad perfect wisdoms.

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