Many years ago, I read a book by Matthew Fox and came upon one of those statements that somehow defined my life. I would call it a recognition of the deepest value and perhaps, the calling for my life. Here it is:
“The task of the artist is to excite human beings to reverence all that is precious and meaningful in life.”
Thinking of that today, while I was gathering some thoughts to share with a friend about current intentions for life, I am gently reminded of the need for reverence in my life and in the world I share with every other human being. The word itself suggests respect for someone or something and comes from the Latin word, reverentia, meaning, to stand in awe of. Respect and awe, for me, are about honoring what is most precious and meaningful in life. What would that be for you?
I want to cultivate reverence in response to life itself, to the wonder of its beauty, the amazement at its intricate design. Reverence for all parts of life, within me and all around me.
Strangely, I don’t feel reverence toward the car that broke down on a sweltering hot day yesterday, nor the costs of the repairs I just got word about. Awe and respect? Hardly. I fell sad, frustrated and a sense of helplessness when it comes to mechanics and technology that are necessary for my day to day existence. A car is mobility. Am I in awe when I think of mobility? Absolutely! It is a wondrous thing to travel far distances via automobiles. On Saturday, we drove thirty miles in search of ink cartridges for a printer. Am I in awe at the price of ink cartridges? Hardly. Am I amazed at the capacity of a printer to create a work of art on a piece of paper? Yes and in less than five minutes!
The weekend before, our car drove us all the way to Bayfield, Wisconsin, close to five hours away. We had no problems that weekend. That is amazing! Perhaps, when I think about how often I do NOT have any problems at all with my car or my printer, I can be in awe of them. Do I revere them? They are still only machines–amazing machines, incredible technology, serving needs for mobility, for beauty, for utility and for traveling long distances. Somehow, I tend to think reverence “should be” more about sacred wonder and awe, deep respect for animate, rather than inanimate objects. I am willing to be wrong about that. Reverence for human inventions that serve significant human needs is a worthy attitude to have, too. And, I guess I could add gratefulness for the technology and the services that support its ongoing functioning and capacities for new innovations.
I was very grateful for the tow trucker driver we could call on a cell phone on a hot Sunday afternoon, particularly, for his kindness in driving us home again, so we were not stranded.
I am grateful for the automotive workers who could determine what needs to be fixed in the car to bring it back to a working condition.
Was there an artist in there somewhere, exciting my reverence for what is precious and meaningful in life? Maybe the art is in the slowing down and turning around of that which at first glance looks like a major inconvenience. Could it be that even in the midst of painfully expensive inconveniences there is meaning worthy of reverence?