O Lord, how manifold are thy works!
in wisdom hast thou made them all:
the earth is full of thy riches. (Ps. 104:24)
Misquoting Plato, curiosity is the source of theology.
Twilight fell earlier than usual: The sky was covered with thick gray clouds. Light was blue and clear only far above the lake. Chilly wind started blowing from behind the woods. It combed long blades of thick grass. Daffodils resembled thousands of flying butterflies or dancing white stars.
The dog and I dragged ourselves to the top of the mountain, making our way through a white hillside. No, it wasn’t snow that made it white; the hillside was covered with lots of wild white daffodils. A nightingale was tweeting his love song in the woods down the hill. The hill was smothered by chirping crickets. An abrupt wind gust carried the crickets’ song from below and mixed it with the sound of crickets chirping uphill. It was as if someone turned up the volume.
My throat was sore, and I didn’t know if I were to blame it on daffodils (their scent is extremely strong) or the beauty that surrounded me. It was the mystery of God’s presence in all things.
You may know that feeling when you encounter astonishing beauty and want to “swallow” it, but you know that it’s impossible; all you can do is stand and stare at the miracle that lends itself to your view. It is at that moment that life grabs you by the collar. Until now, I’ve never thought that it is at the moment when you experience beauty that life reveals itself in front of us in all its depth. Life is being lived. So there I was, walking up the blossoming mountain and thinking.
Boredom is one of the most lifeless states for me, second only to despondency. When everything is clear and predictable – when there isn’t anything that could surprise you – isn’t it boring? Curiosity means being interested in knowing more about the world.
Father Andrew (the spiritual father of St. Elisabeth Convent) told his audience in one of his sermons about an 80-year-old woman who was very interested in life and was always looking for new knowledge. I remember Father Andrew calling this eagerness to learn and live a full life a sign of the presence of the Spirit in man. I had had a different opinion, and his words came as a revelation for me – a revelation that set the tune of my inner life ever since. I realized that if I’m interested in life – if I’m curious – it means that I’m truly alive.
If we delve into worship texts or prayers, we will soon realize that surprise is one of the basic emotions. The environment we live in is not chaotic and not strictly logical and systematic, as isn’t our life. It is a miracle. The entire created universe tells us so. There are no limits to our exploration. It is curiosity that makes poets out of us.
When I was on my way to becoming a practicing Christian – when God revealed himself to me in his great and inscrutable Beauty – I had the feeling as though I had been climbing a mountain, unable to see anything for a while, but then suddenly I saw a magnificent landscape I couldn’t entirely grasp with my eyes, a landscape that I could only stare at in bewildernment. I recall that I had only one prayer on my mind at that time, “Lord, don’t let me forget this Beauty. Don’t let me stop learning and being curious.” Year after year, I keep being surprised of the Liturgy, each time like the first time. I keep being amazed at the beauty of liturgical texts, which I know pretty well by now, and the new meanings that I discover again in those texts. It’s like walking in a familiar building and finding new rooms, which you didn’t know existed.
May our curiosity be the key to knowledge, the key to searching for the Truth, and the key to freedom.