The posts in this “Rivière-des-Prairies or Bust” series are self-contained, but by way of background…these are “field notes” of my efforts to walk in a mindful way westward from my Mile End, Montreal apartment until I reach Rivière-des-Prairies.
August 19, 2014
“Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement. ….get up in the morning and look at the world in a way that takes nothing for granted. Everything is phenomenal; everything is incredible; never treat life casually. To be spiritual is to be amazed.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel
Atheists and anti-religionists, please take heart. In spite of some of the religious stuff below, if you keep scrolling, something beautiful and nonsectarian is going to happen. I promise.
Oh, what the hell. Here’s a sneak preview.
As I write this, Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, is only a couple of days away. The Days of Awe which it initiates are a time for self-reflection and teshuvah, often translated as “repentance,” but more precisely translated as “turning” – turning back to the source of our goodness. As I think about the year past, the year ahead, and the years to follow, God willing (whatever that expression means, it definitely means something), I would like to honour that source by doing well by intimates and strangers, of course, but also by living, as best I can, with the radical amazement that A.J. Heschel describes.
I got a hit of it on August 19, when my walk westward took me past the ostensibly nondescript du College metro station.
The stained glass inside got me curious.
A glance down the stairway got me kind of excited.
So I decided to camp out for a while.
Then I descended further into the light.
And watched all these people stepping through the light or around it. Sometimes it seemed the light was seeking them out or they were dodging it. An understandable response to light – literal and metaphorical. It’s hard to resist rushing. Our lives are full of fires to put out and others to stoke. But sometimes rushing is nothing more than an unnoticed habit, or simply the conviction that here is boring, and there is better.
The metro station is near Vanier CEGEP, a college. And I found myself wondering if it has a place for its students – in a non-sectarian way, at least – to connect and perhaps deepen their capacity for radical amazement. Show up, notice something you hadn’t before, get a passing grade.
To Jewish readers, a shana tova, a good and sweet new year. And to all readers, wishing you some radical amazement today and in the days ahead. If you come across some, feel free to offer a comment, telling us about it.
“We can never sneer at the stars, mock the dawn, or scoff at the totality of being.”
― Abraham Joshua Heschel