The Art of Wonder

My guess is that you own at least one piece of technology created and sold by Apple. At one point or another, you have likely purchased an iPod, an iPod Shuffle, an iPod Touch, an iPhone, an iPad, or a Mac computer. Or it could be that you simply own the Apple headphones because you like the way they sound and form to your ear. The point is this: we are surrounded by technology that daily changes the way we live and interact with the world and Apple has largely defined that journey for the last decade or so.

I’ve always been impressed by their advertising campaigns as well. The Mac/PC commercials were a staple among the humor compilations a few years back and their ads continue to draw us in during most television breaks today. Some have observed that the greatest payoff of Apple’s attention to detail is that their products do not need instruction manuals as most customers can learn how their new technological investment functions with merely a casual sense of curiosity. When the iPod was first released, this would be the selling point for the company over the course of a few years and a handful of products. Whether it was the iPod, the iPad, or the i-(Insert-Product-Name-Here), the message was simple: Ours is cooler, sleeker, and better than our competitors.

In the last couple of years, the company has taken a bit of a turn from this method and they have begun to pitch their product as being something more than just superior to competitors, but an enhancement to one’s lifestyle. For instance, watch this iPad commercial in comparison to the one linked above. And more specifically, the one embedded at the top of this post. Once again, the message is clear, but it is different: Our product will improve the way you live.

Now, I’m not writing this to debate whether or not Apple makes the best technology out there. I really don’t care what I use as long as it works. If you have read this far, then we’ll get to what I really want this post to be about and that is the commercial at the start of this entry. I love it. I saw it for the first time back in April and was struck by what it did to me. Granted, I understand that at the end of the day the point of the commercial is to sell viewers on the iPhone, but that’s not what I walked away loving. The beauty of that 1-minute video is how well it captures human wonder.

Two friends running through an overgrown field. A man in the middle of a jog capturing a coastline. Feet sinking in the tide-ridden sand; an antique door; a sea of umbrellas; a city skyline; a frothy latte; a gentle snowfall; a silly moment with a friend. Each scene strums a heartstring by crystallizing simple, authentic wonder.

I think this commercial strikes me so much because I struggle to live in this simple style of wonder. Maybe you can relate. Between fighting traffic, purchasing groceries, answering emails, earning a paycheck, studying for classes, and trying to get a decent amount of sleep I often feel too busy to stop and enjoy something simple, ordinary. This is the hubbub of big city life and it is what we have to do in order to be somebody, right? We don’t really have time to slow down or we’ll miss out on being something, right?

Since we moved into our new house a month ago, I have been taking the train to work, which means I have removed from my day the extraordinary convenience that is having a car that I can drive wherever I would like. It has forced me to fashion my schedule with discipline because I have to walk wherever I need to go. A few days ago, I made plans to meet a friend for coffee one evening after work. My  office is in the heart of a busy area of town and we were going to get together at the mall located right across the freeway. It was an easy enough walk. The sidewalks were well-paved and shrubbery was planted in various spaces around the pavement to make it seem more inviting.

But there was a moment about halfway across the heavily congested highway where I stood next to the railing and stopped. All around me loomed enormous buildings that normally race by my car window at 60 miles per hour. I saw vehicles speed beneath me, one after the other, likely never noticing my gaze and much like learning Greek has forced me to slow down my reading of Scripture, in that moment, atop the busy artery of Dallas, the act of walking slowed down the way I processed what I saw. I stopped and experienced a very simple thing:

Wonder.

And it made me wish that I would stop more often because I am becoming further convinced with each new day that achievement does not create contentment. It is an addiction that constantly needs further and greater filling and remains quietly subversive. When will you receive enough of your boss’s commendation? When will your bank account be full enough? How many degrees are enough? Which professional title will ultimately be enough? How much love will someone need to give you before you have enough? What is enough?

In the context of rejecting a “self-made” importance, Paul, in his letter to the Colossian church, says that everything we pursue for purpose in this life is a mere “shadow of the things to come.” In other words, their sum is an empty reflection of what becomes substance in eternal relationship with Christ. We do not find ourselves filled by present achievement because we are chasing shadows. They cannot be held, felt, or befriended and they will betray you the moment the light fades.

The enduring truth is this: Christ lived an extraordinary life so that we could live an ordinary one. We are no longer responsible for making something of ourselves because Christ has achieved on our behalf. We were created to wonder and in knowing Christ, we can because we are free to slow down. Rather than spending our brief time on this earth pursuing the art of achievement, we are free to focus on growing in the art of wonder because everything we could ever need we have been given in Jesus Christ.

So try slowing down. Drink a cup of coffee and enjoy it long enough to forget about how it needs to wake you up for the day. Watch the rain without growing frustrated at how it will inevitably make rush hour worse. Eat a dessert and sing at its flavors instead of counting the calories in each bite. Take a run and feel the breeze on your cheeks. Taste the air from time to time. And pray that we might learn to live our lives out of the security we already have in Christ instead of laboring for a self-made assurance that we will never find on our own.

If I could add a post script to the Apple commercial it would be twofold. Wonder is an intrinsically soulful experience. It is something achieved in an instant and located within. While there are some who are masterful at practicing the art of wonder, they can be quick to trade in their own experience for a pixelated replica, which cannot translate its transcendence. These must learn to rest in the moment and remember it as a gift to possess by living beyond the gadget. On the other hand, there are those who would not think to snap a shot with their mind let alone their phone because they see no beauty at all. These must learn to wonder at life by slowing down, setting aside the crushing ambition of achievement, and seeing the shadows of this world for what they will one day become.

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2 thoughts on “The Art of Wonder”

  1. Great post, bro! It’s funny. After reading your post and watching the commercial, the voice-over at the end of the commercial—albeit only one short sentence—feels quite obnoxious and insecure. (:

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