By Rich Hayes
Transcript of talk given at Unitarian Universalist Church of Gt. Barrington
Feb. 12, 2012


When before the beauty of a sunset or a mountain,
you pause and exclaim, "Ah," you are participating in divinity.

-Joseph Campbell

When I was about 5 or 6 years old I was in the kitchen and wondered what would happen if I put a knife in the toaster, so I did as I steadied myself on the faucet. One of the things that happened was my little brother Jim who was 4 began to laugh as he saw me vibrating and convulsing. Fortunately my Mom heard the commotion and, rushed into the room, saw what was happening and yanked the plug out of the wall.

I’ve wondered about things all my life. Today I find I wonder
at them as well.

Consider the following:
*Your heart will beat 40 million beats this year-and will probably beat about 3 billion times during the course of your life.
*Your lungs inhale over two million liters of air every day. The surface area of your lungs is approximately the same size as a tennis court.

*You are made up of about 75 trillion cells all cooperating to help make you “You.
*Each cell in your body has 6 to 8 feet of DNA.
*The total length of your circulatory system stretches 60,000 miles-that’s more than twice the distance around the Earth.
* 2000 gallons of blood is pumped through these vessels every day.
* In the time it’s taken me to say this, over 50,000 of the cells in your body have died and been replaced with new cells!
*In the course of 7 years every cell in your body has been replaced-NOTHING REMAINS OF THE “YOU” OF 7 YEARS AGO!
*Approximately 60% of the atoms making up your body at this moment are from the very moments after the Big Bang and have been inside stars and worlds –part of you is over 13 billion years old!!!

So if you’re a little tired from time to time, you can see why.

On my birthday each year I take special time out to sit and meditate. Last year I had and experience. A vision came to me in which it was as though I was seeing a vast expanse of land-no tress, just grassland. It was as if I were standing on a slight hill looking down and I saw a line of people, lined up in two’s stretching as far back as the horizon. And as I looked at this line of men and woman I realized these were my ancestors. And it hit me that if each of these two hadn’t been there, and in the “mood” at the exact moment they were in the mood, then I wouldn’t be here as me-at least the “me” I’m now experiencing. And this is also true for each of you!
Let that sink in for a minute! Going back as far as the very beginnings of things, all had to unfold as it has in order for you to be here as you right now!

Considering this information, wouldn’t you agree that you are a wonder-an
amazing occurrence-unique -never having existed before in all this time-in this particular combination of abilities, talents, thoughts, and emotions.

Dr. Suess said:
“Today you are you, that is truer than true.
There is no one alive who is You-er than You”

Do you remember when you were little and things seemed so new and fresh? Do you remember the first time you saw a rainbow and it seemed like magic? Or the first time you saw lightening bugs?
Or the first time you really understood how to do something like math or science or to drive a car? How about the first time you were up in some high place and were able to see for miles?
The first time you saw beauty and recognized it?

Do these things still happen for you?
Are you still able, on most days, to experience some wonder?
Do you have enough wonder in your life??

Can there ever be too much wonder? I don’t think so.

We are born to wonder.
But we forget-become complacent-or we’re simply too busy and stop seeing the wonder of what is right in front of us-right here, right now.

Some people say all the electronic gadgets have only made things worse, causing more distraction. But I don’t know. There’s an awful lot of wonder there too.

I’m still struck with the miracle of my iPod!!

“Wonder” is a choice.
We have to be present in order to experience it.
Wonder asks us to
PAY ATTENTION. To be here, now!

Wonder asks that we be open to questions, be willing to let go and “not know” and then be willing to see with fresh eyes and
hear with fresh ears.

Every piece of music has new treasures to reveal to you at each listening. How can this be? Simple: You are not the same person who listened the last time.
It’s the idea that you can never step into the same river twice.
You are the River.

I don’t know about you, but this idea gives me comfort and excites me.

Wonder is not age specific- you’re never too old.

Let me tell you about my friend Joe. He was just shy of his 99th birthday when he died. He was a seeker and explorer right up to his final days. Always willing to ask questions and look at things in new ways. I became friends with him over 20 years ago. At the time he was a young 79 and had just gone back to school to get his CAC so he could counsel people struggling with substance abuse. I used to go and sit with him weekly. He was always surrounded by books and magazines and newspapers. He loved asking questions and wondering about things

He told me that he saw life as a kind of “spiral” -Not narrowing but expanding upward-and out. And he approached death with this same sense of wonder. No fear, open heart and open mind.

Esther is in her mid 90’s. She’s confined to her bedroom.
She lost her entire family in the holocaust. She barely escaped herself. She had been in a relocation camp and told me that that experience had taught her that in order to survive she needed to go beyond herself and help others.

During the deprivation she learned to find within herself the ability to see beauty even in this awful place. She told me it saved her. She made a point to look deeply at a mud puddle and know that tiny life lived in it. Watched the sky’s ever changing colors, noticed a few tufts of grass breaking through the concrete walk and wondered at the persistent nature of life to emerge no matter how difficult.

She wondered if she would ever be able to forgive. And after many years and much hard work found to her surprise and amazement, she could…and did.

She’d come to this country and earned a degree in Social Work and worked in Boston, helping the African American community. She understood what it felt like to be marginalized and singled out and she took her experience, with all its pain and loss, and transmuted it by helping others. She understood their pain and together they healed each other.

Her bedroom has theses huge windows and she spends her time looking out and marveling at the beauty of nature-in the trees and birds, the sky and the clouds. No matter what the weather is, it is amazing and something marvelous to behold, and she always points this out to me, saying that there is so much beauty in the world if we would only open our eyes.

Her connection to the sense of wonder all around her has helped her to not only heal deep wounds of loss, but to prepare her for her final letting go of this life She told me that when that time comes even if she can’t speak the words aloud, she hopes to say them silently, in her heart: Thank you.

Wonder always brings you to gratitude…always. It is inevitable. And that is a recipe for living well, and dying well.

Today is the birthday of my oldest friend. We met back in the 2
nd grade and have been friends ever since. I sent him an email today telling him how grateful I am that he is in this world and has been a part of my life. I shared with him how much he had helped me during a very dark period in my young life. We’d gone to Catholic school and I had a great deal of difficulty there. He was a wise-ass kid who sat behind me and made me laugh-many times when I felt like crying, Dave was there. So I let him know that today. Chances are he never realized this but I felt he should know. The truth is that we never know how much we might have helped someone just by being there at the right time. This again is the wonder of timing and us being who we are meant to be.

So, what do you think? Are you willing to take a few moments each day to remind yourself to see “wonder” ? I guarantee you that if you make it part of your “Practice”, it will enrich your life in ways you can hardly imagine. It will open doors that have seemed locked.

Emerson said, what lies behind us and what lies before us are tiny matters compared to what lies within us.

I absolutely agree.