Russell and Duenes

The “what-ness” of things

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As I walked over to the local Panera Bread yesterday to grade essays, I started thinking of how much reality there is in the universe about which I know absolutely nothing. I looked at the car parked on the street and realized that I have no idea how the nuts and bolts of it are actually assembled. I saw the buildings in the shopping center and thought, “I really would have no idea how to build such a structure.” I even saw the red “Walgreen’s” sign and pondered my ignorance as to how it actually got made.

Noticing all of these things turned my mind back to C.S. Lewis, and something John Piper said about him in a lecture he gave on Lewis. Piper talked about Lewis’ sheer wonder at and exuberance over the fact that things simply are. There is something inexplicably awesome in the fact that people and trees and rivers and buildings exist as they do. Piper’s remarks on Lewis caused me to reflect:

Lewis gave me, and continues to give me, an intense sense of the astonishing “realness? of things. He had the ability to see and feel what most of us see and do not see. He had what Alan Jacobs called “omnivorous attentiveness.” I love that phrase. What this has done for me is hard to communicate. To wake up in the morning and to be aware of the firmness of the mattress, the warmth of the sun’s rays, the sound of the clock ticking, the coldness of the wooden floor, the wetness of the water in the sink, the sheer being of things (quiddity as he called it). And not just to be aware but to wonder. To be amazed that the water is wet. It did not have to be wet. If there were no such thing as water, and one day some one showed it to you, you would simply be astonished.

He helped me become alive to life. To look at the sunrise and with say with an amazed smile, “God did it again!” He helped me to see what is there in the world—things which if we didn’t have them, we would pay a million dollars to have, but having them, ignore. He convicts me of my callous inability to enjoy God’s daily gifts. He helps me to awaken my dazed soul so that the realities of life and of God and heaven and hell are seen and felt.



Written by Michael Duenes

March 24, 2010 at 8:37 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

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