Was life really this simple back in the day, or were we just kidding ourselves?
I mean seriously. We had worries. If it wasn’t a dirty red commie bastard lurking behind the trash cans, poised to snatch away the kids, then a nuclear bomb was going to drop on our heads any second. Talk about stress.
We were also stepping into a new technological age with unusual and exotic words like “microprocessor” and “memory bank”. The kids loved it.
And the advances came and brought prosperity of one sort or another. We grew more sophisticated as our knowledge of science and the world blossomed. We changed, and despite the cynics, we didn’t blow ourselves up in one massive sneeze of antipathy.
If progress is a double-edged sword, then cynicism is that other edge that can nick and bleed a society to death. A certain innocence is lost. There is no more magic or wonder in the world, nothing to stand in awe of. What a gray and meaningless, yes fearless world.
We need fear. Without fear, there is nothing to humble man. Fear of falling keeps us upright. Fear of the unknown pushes us to know more. Fear of failure can mock us into uselessness or challenge us to overcome what, in the long run, usually turns out to be ignorance. And fear of God causes us to think about …stuff.
Some would argue that to fear God is to indulge, even revel in ignorance, but I think those folks don’t understand the meaning of the word fear. In my small way, I think I know God. And I can’t have ever come to that place relying on intellect. You have to put yourself in context with the rest of the universe. When you can do that, words like fear, awe, respect become meaningful.
This is the real trick, because humans constantly must balance humility with audacity.
Gandalf once told Bilbo, “You don’t really suppose, do you, that all your adventures and escapes were managed by mere luck, just for your sole benefit? You’re a very fine person, Mr. Baggins, and I’m very fond of you, but you’re only quite a little fellow in a wide world, after all.”
And in typical hobbitish fashion Bilbo replied, “Thank goodness!”
Humbleness, that ability to accept the truth about one’s actual position in the universal food chain, is the volume knob that quiets the clatter of the mundane world so that we can concentrate on other, finer things.
A simple touch, the texture of old wood. That peculiar cool breeze that haunts the entrance to a cave. A crow’s shadow racing across a sun-burnt yard.
These experiences are charged with a supernatural quality that doesn’t demand your attention at first, but will steal your heart when you’re not looking.
What a neat world.