Long ago, humans looked at the world and wondered. They gazed at the stars and found them beautiful. They watched the change of the seasons and marveled. They heard the chirping of the birds and were spellbound.
Where had all this splendor come from? Humans pondered this question for long days and nights. They had no telescope to observe the stars, no microscope to explore the basic components of living things, but they did have a brain that was more complex than the most wondrous of modern computers. So they thought, and they arrived at the conclusion that there was a Higher Being in charge of it all, a Creator responsible for all this creation.
This belief of humankind took different shapes in different times and places. The Greeks believed that many gods and goddesses dwelt in glory on Mount Olympus. Zeus, Hera, and hundreds of other divinities still capture the world’s imagination today. The Norse believed in the sky-god Odin and myriad deities – Loki and Freya and the thunder-god Thor. The Sumerians had the fiercely beautiful Ishtar, and the Egyptians worshiped Amun-Ra and Osiris. And in a little stretch of fertile land called Canaan, a group of people called the Hebrews claimed to have the true belief – a belief in One All-Powerful God, a God with a Name so sacred it was not to be spoken by the light tongues of men.
Flash forward several thousand years to the present day. Humans have made great strides in science and technology, achievements so remarkable our ancestors would not have believed such things possible. Now we look at the world and discover. We peer at the stars through a telescope and find that they are massive orbs of burning gas, suspended in a limitless universe and visible from distances so great it makes one dizzy to think about them. We have studied the change of the seasons and learned that they are caused by the tilting of Earth on its axis as it spins its course around the sun. We scrutinize the intricate anatomy of living things and know that they are composed of living cells, each a little unit of activity in itself – and, furthermore, that every element is formed at its most basic level of tiny atoms, that within these atoms are even tinier particles called protons and neutrons and electrons – that all of this is so minuscule and yet so detailed that it is nearly as mind-boggling as the enormity of the universe.
Can you imagine what primitive humans would have thought if they had known this world was so vast, so intricate, so surprising? How do you think they would have reacted? With a resounding “Wow”? A breathless confusion of wonder? We could hardly expect anything else! Early humans’ sense of wonder at the world around them, already admirably awakened, would have grown a thousandfold if they had learned, in a moment, all the truths that modern humans have uncovered over the centuries.
And yet, what do modern humans think? We certainly don’t have the same reaction that ancient humans would have.
Modern science draws conclusions that would shock any self-respecting wonderer of the ancient world.
“There is no God.”
“This universe is the product of chance.”
“Humankind was not designed, but came about due to random evolution.”
Where has our sense of wonder gone? It has disappeared, flown away like the epic mythology of that ancient world. Only snatches remain, and these are scorned. We think ourselves so very smart, don’t we? We know we have learned much since those days of the old philosophers, and so we disregard their wisdom. It is true that we have made great progress in the past several thousand years. But does this mean we should reject the wisdom and great thoughts that were the basis for our learning?
We have lost that supreme, that essential, that glorious sense of wonder! And with it, we have lost our belief in Something Greater.
It is ridiculous, what we have done. It is as though a peasant had a clock and always knew it had been crafted by someone, and then, upon breaking the clock’s face and seeing the intricate clockwork inside, decided the clock made itself. Or as though a group of children, having lived all their lives in a house and assuming its builder had been a capable workman, suddenly came out of the house and realized it had merely been a dollhouse in a room more magnificent and massive than anything they had ever seen – and concluded that there was no builder at all.
As our knowledge has grown, our wonder has shrunk. It doesn’t make sense to me. Does it to you?
Maybe the ancients were on to something when they said there was a higher power. I’m not saying we should go back to believing in Zeus. I’m just saying that moving forward in science doesn’t mean turning away from belief in a higher power.
No matter how informed the modern and atheistic mind is, it cannot be denied that there is something missing – a sense of awe and wonder at the world around us. It would be a shame if we accepted the new marvels of modern science at the expense of that wonder. Because that sense of wonder is what makes life worthwhile.
This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.