Life As Miracle

There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

Albert Einstein

The notion that life is a miracle is both an attitude and a style of experiencing. More precisely, it is an attitude that’s rooted in a particular kind of perception, or way of seeing the world. That’s what makes Einstein’s observation so uncanny—and wise. You either look around you and perceive miracles everywhere or you perceive them nowhere. There isn’t much in-between.

The kind of seeing I’m talking about may commonly be called poetic vision. And it is embodied in Maslow’s concepts of B-perception and B-cognition, defined (per the APA dictionary) as: a “dialectical blending of two ways of experiencing: In the first, a person is aware of the whole universe and the interrelatedness of everything within it, including the perceiver; in the second, a person becomes entirely focused on a single object (e.g., a natural phenomenon, a work of art, or a loved person) to the extent that the rest of the universe, including the perceiver, seems to disappear. “

I realize that, in my last post, I touched on these concepts quite a bit. In the idea that the miraculous is on our doorstep. That it’s always sitting in front of us just waiting to be seen. And that to understand the world as suffering is, in effect, a fault of perception. It is to mistake part of reality for an all-ecompassing and benevolent whole. What I would like to do with this post is simply to describe what I mean by seeing life as a miracle, or what it means to perceive the miraculous in the stuff of everyday life. I will, almost assuredly, explore the topic further in future posts.

There is a property in the horizon which no man has but he whose eye can integrate all parts, that is, the poet.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

If you look at a tree and only see a tree, then you are seeing part of the whole. If you look at a bird, an ant, a snake, or a spider and see a strange creature, a creature that is, in some sense, like an object to you and entirely foreign to your being, then you are seeing part of the whole. If you don’t see the current of life that runs through all things, the soul in them—that little piece of yourself that is reflected back to you in them—then you’re not really seeing at all.

But if you look at a tree and you see it bristle in the wake of a cool breeze, and you see the sunlight cascade over its branches, making it seem as if, for a moment, the tree itself has leapt to life before your eyes and extended its giant arms to welcome you to the day—to the miracle that is that day—and your heart is instantly filled with gratitude, and your spirit become so light that you walk as if your feet barely touch the ground—then you have seen the tree.

You didn’t come into this world. You came out of it, like a wave from the ocean. You are not a stranger here.

Alan Watts

On a walk in the woods, you encounter a deer several yards away. The deer stops to stare at you, and you stare back at her. When you look at her eyes you no longer see just a deer, but your heart is filled with a sense of kinship, of comradeship, and you think to yourself, “She is just like me.” In that moment, you have seen the deer. More than that, you have recognized her. You have perceived the miracle of life in both of you. It is impossible to see the God in another creature without also acknowledging the God in yourself.

He has blinded their eyes and hardened their hearts, Lest they should see with their eyes, Lest they should understand with their hearts and turn, So that I should heal them.

John 12:40

To perceive the world in this way is to not feel alienated. To not feel isolated, even when you are alone. Because, in a sense, you never really are. You have a deep sense of connection to a greater whole because you perceive that whole everywhere you look. I believe we are all capable of this vision and its opposite, but never both at the same time. No matter what’s happening in your life, the moment you pull your gaze out of the tunnel of pain, suffering, and lack to perceive the whole, your heart is filled with gratitude and your burdens instantly lightened. And that might be the greatest miracle of all.

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