A wondrous world

There is a beautiful and inspiring story told about Theodore Roosevelt, the erstwhile US president, and William Beebe, a renowned naturalist. They met frequently and often, after an evening’s talk, would walk into the lawn and look up at the star-spangled sky. They would compete with each other to be the first to identify the emerging pale mist of light — the Andromeda. This would be followed by reciting these words: ‘That is the Spiral Galaxy of Andromeda. It is as large as our Milky Way. It is one of a hundred million galaxies. It is 2500000 light-years away. It consists of one hundred thousand million Suns, many larger than our own Sun.’ Then there would be a moment of silence, after which Roosevelt would grin and say, ‘Now I think we are small enough. Let’s go to bed.’

Mystery surrounds our life on earth. One look at the starry skies can stop us in our tracks, overwhelming us with awe. In spite of the many years that have elapsed after humans arrived on this planet, many basic and baffling wonders remain. We have made many strides in the study of astronomy, human reproduction and other allied sciences, but the ultimate secret of life continues to elude us.

For instance, we may do much to help in the germination of a seed, but the act of growing itself takes place within it and on its own. We have created electronic marvels that outdo human capability, but we cannot achieve the same results using human effort and hands alone.

Do we ever let ourselves simply wonder? Do we take time to feel and experience the ineffable pulse of the Spirit that keeps all things alive and in order? The poet Tennyson has expressed this thought beautifully: ‘Flower in the crannied wall, I pluck you out of the crannies, hold you here, root and all, in my hand. Little flower/ But if I could understand what you are, root and all and all in all, I should know what God and man is.’

How great is the gift of wonder given to humankind! Let us allow it to fill us, for it is the root of all reverence, fellow-feeling and knowledge.

 

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