I love the moon at this time of month. Its “waxing crescent” and if that isn’t the name of a yoga move, it should be. There’s something playful about the tiny slice of light and its daily game of hide and seek. I keep expecting to see a kid fishing off the end of it with his knee under his chin. This slender crescent is seen in its glory in the morning which is also my favorite time of day. I get up early, a zillion thoughts in my head, barely knowing where to begin, and the silver slither watches over me without judgment. There is something benevolent about the moon as it both impacts human mood and behavior and also shines down without preference.
The moon has always been a cause of great wonder. It waxes and wanes in diverse beauty and shines an endless stream of light on science, poetry and every day inspiration alike. A 4,000 year old verse from the Rig Veda, a sacred Hindu text says “O Moon! We should be able to know you through our intellect; you enlighten us through the right path.”
The moon brings together science and spirituality, intellect and emotions, ancient and modern hopes and dreams. It’s a curious irony to westerners that the first Indian moon landing took place just recently in 2008. A week before the launch, millions of Hindu women fasted, according to ancient custom, until the first sighting of the moon’s reflection in a bowl of oil. They do this as part of an ancient belief that it will safeguard the welfare of their family. It’s a beautiful parallel, nature and humanity both reaching toward and reflecting the other, people looking for moon magic even while technology lassoes possibility and pulls it a little closer to here and now.
The magical qualities of the moon don’t seem to be compromised by getting up close and personal with the giant ball of silly putty in the sky. As scientific advance chips away at superstition, like thinning slices of a fading moon, imagination still runs free. Wonder affirms both the curiosity of science and the collective imagination of people and cultures. The moon is its own metaphor for the relationship between science and spirituality, with its yin/yang shades of light and dark, receiving and reflecting the sun’s rays. Her front porch is lit with guiding light, while the inner parts of the house are in deep darkness. She is whole, no matter how little we see or understand. How whole the moon! What a wonder!
The prized gift of wonder is the ability to see yourself as a participant in a greater whole. You are a player on life’s stage with a love so large it can travel to the moon and back, shedding beauty and softness on the whole and never lose its luster. In the words of the classic 1946 film, It’s a Wonderful Life, wonder “throws a lasso around the moon and pull it down, then you can swallow it…and then moonbeams shoot out of your fingers and your toes and the ends of your hair.”
Wonder is a uniquely human trait with its adaptive evolutionary qualities. It allows you to suspend judgment, consider new possibilities and shift perspective. Wonder is like a stray flower in winter or a light hearted story at a funeral. It has the ability to upturn your assumptions and turn up your optimism. Wonder allows you to experience the world in a new way; with fresh, unprejudiced attention.
When the child sees in the moon a giant rabbit standing over a kitchen table, maybe the child is intuiting something about the wondrous kitchen table wisdom of the universe. What wisdom is contained on that dusty, cratered orb! How many stories the moon has heard! How much life it has seen!
Wonder taps into the miracle of being alive and the joy of sharing in new life. Every moment is a miracle, every person pure magic. As a father, I wonder at the single cells I contributed to the miracle of new life. Each cell is so small that it’s invisible to the naked eye, and the nucleus in the center of the cell that contains the DNA is even smaller. And yet if you unraveled the DNA of this single cell, unwound and uncoiled it, it would stretch to over six feet long. Now if you are like me and you look eye to six foot high eye with your child, you are looking eye to eye with the miracle and wonder of life. In my case, I’m looking at a six foot bundle of creative potential with the world at his feet. Then I lower my gaze to my second, and I see a five foot bundle of gentle compassion who holds the world in his heart. Then I lower my gaze still further to my four foot miracle of sweetness with my heart wrapped around her finger.
Now as you look at your four, five or six foot miracles, consider that if you took all the DNA from all the 50 trillion cells in each young body, and unraveled and uncoiled it, it would stretch to the moon and back multiple times. It’s no accident that this is also the amount that you love them. To the moon and back…. multiple times. That’s how far a parent’s love stretches and it’s also how far human wonder reaches.
Wonder could even be another name for God, the mysterious symmetry that defies any names or description, the moments of magic that change everything. As the Swedish Nobel Prize winner, Dag Hammarskjold said in his book of meditations, “Markings”,
“God does not die on the day when we cease to believe in a personal deity, but we die on the day when our lives cease to be illumined by the steady radiance, renewed daily, of a wonder, the source of which is beyond all reason.” Dag Hammarskjold
You could replace the word “God” with wonder and it would have the same meaning in the quote. Your relationship with wonder is only limited by your imagination. The moon is a constant reminder of the mystery that goes by many names and no name. Shine on you crazy diamond. Fill us with the light of your lunar wisdom. Teach us to bask in the beauty of it all, scientific curiosity and spiritual imagination alike. All of life has a unity. Each moment is filled with enough beauty and mystery to keep our attention locked in wonder’s gaze forever.
The silver light, which, hallowing tree and tower,
Sheds beauty and deep softness o’er the whole,
Breathes also to the heart, and o’er it throws
A loving languor which is not repose. Lord Byron