Surprise!
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Surprise!

It never ceases to amaze me how few people recognize that life continues to be an absolute surprise! Every second of every day.

This is an area where children can help us enormously:

One little three year old asked his mom while she was breast feeding his little sister "Mom, why have you got two, is one for hot milk and the other for cold milk?"

Another little chap, aged five, was watching a couple smooching in a restaurant, he was absolutely fascinated, "Dad," he asked, "why is he whispering in her mouth?" I can almost see him thinking, "silly man doesn't know that people hear with their ears."

A mom took her eight son to see the cellist Yo-Yo Ma performing in an orchestra. "Look," said the mom, "there's Yo-Yo Ma, he's the first cellist."

"Wow," said the boy, "the first cellist ever?"

Life is one complete surprise, and yet when we look back we can see why and how it must be the way it actually is and it couldn't have been any other way. Why the grass had to be green and the sky had to be blue. Why witches must be ugly, gold must be shiny and very heavy, and light cannot travel faster than a certain speed.

Then, just when we think that we have gotten used to the surprise of sensible order, the daily defeat of chaos (chaos does not even rank as a natural god, let alone a supernatural one); there comes another surprise even more shocking than the first. Not only are things the way they are and could not possibly be any other way (with a few important exceptions), but also things are always best at what they love to do. Birds fly and they seem to enjoy flying; children imagine exceptionally well, and they love to imagine; water flows downhill and giggles all the way; the mysterious moon winks at us once every month without ever getting tired of the game.

It is, when one stops to actually look at it, absolutely startling. But the truth is that for almost all of us the last time we actually looked at it was when we were about five.

Someone once said that we only send children to school once they are too old to learn anything useful. I think they are absolutely right. Mom's words before we turn six strike with the consistence and accuracy of a biblical prophet.

She says to be careful of bees because they sting and they come with a black and yellow striped warning... and what she says turns out to be completely correct. She says that granny will offer us fizzy cold drink, and granny does. On and on it goes for the first six years of our lives the pieces of the puzzle we were given come together, and we are rightly surprised that they do, that they seem to have been made to fit.

It is when we begin that long and dreary path to adulthood that we loose the wonder, we take the surprise for granted. We tire of the repetition, we grow too weak to keep saying "do it again, and again, and again..." It's as if the sun and the waves are much younger than us, they do not tire of the same game over and over.

There grows the distinct impression of being in the middle of a great orchestra; of perhaps we should say the great orchestra. At one time we may find ourselves in the wind section, and another amidst the percussion, some too deep for our mortal ears. But we don't find ourselves in this grandest of orchestras as the conductor directing, not even a sub section; nor do we find ourselves as a member of the audience appreciating the whole show.

And slowly it dawns on us, or it ought to, what a great and truly awesome show it must be when experienced from the audience.

When thinking about it, one realises that there is a certain amount of conduction that every human does, and there is a certain amount of audiencing (new verb) that every human also does, but before long Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle prevents us from either seeing the whole show or from directing more than a tiny piece of it.

Now there are two conclusions we can draw.

Firstly we simply must stop and think about it again, and again. We cannot allow the slow adult petrification to kill our wonder. We must not loose ourselves in the intricate maze of logic, strategy, politics and mathematics. These things do bring an intellectual satisfaction, but it is a law of diminishing returns, how could one even begin to compare playing chess to the kiss of a lover? Reading Machiavelli to eating a meal cooked with a mother's love? Each of us must become a child again. Certainly heaven is not open to us unless we do (Luke 18:17).

The second conclusion we must draw is that there is one instrument section in this orchestra that is out of tune, and it is not just out of tune, each instrument in the section is out of tune with every other and is also attempting to play a very different song. One does not see rocks ignoring gravity nor does one see gazelle chasing lions. Saturn does not refuse to orbit and light does not exceed the speed limit... but we do!

It is us, human beings, who break the law we know that we ought to obey. And we break it not for the sake of harmony, we are scarcely aware of the universal symphony, we break it for the sake of self. And all of creation submits, because it must, and groans. Whoever is watching must groan too, what an awful clash we must be, what a horrible screech we must create in our self imposed ignorance we call 'adulthood', which is no ignorance at all.

Well there is hope, in listening. In tuning and in contributing. But the key is not impersonal universal unconsciousness, no, it is extra-universal personal consciousness. If there is harmony then there is both an composer and a conductor; there is both an idea and a project; there is both a story and a book from which the story is read.

And neither composing nor conducting happen by chance or chaos or some universal impersonal force. One gets the impression from Star Wars that the mediclorians would be extremely interesting to talk to.

One gets the impression from the Universe that it's composer must be extremely interesting to talk to, if only we could get past the dreadful awkwardness of obviously ruining an otherwise perfect performance!

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