Heschel on Wonder


The greatest hindrance to our knowledge is our adjustment to conventional notions, to mental cliches. Wonder or radical amazement, the state of maladjustment to words and notions, is, therefore, a prerequisite for an authentic awareness of what is.

Standing eye to eye with being as being, we realize that we are able to look at the world with two faculties- with reason and with wonder. Through he first we try to explain or adapt the world to our concepts, through the second we seek to adapt our minds to the world….Wonder goes beyond knowledge. ..Wonder is a state of mind in which we do not look at reality through the latticework of our memorized knowledge; in which nothing is taken for granted. Spiritually we cannot  live by merely re-iterating borrowed or inherited knowledge. Inquire of your soul what does it know, what does it take for granted. It will tell you only no-thing is taken for granted; each thing is a surprise, being is unbelievable. We are amazed at seeing anything at all; amazed not only at particular things but at the unexpectedness of being as such, at the fact that there is being at all.

(from Abraham Joshua Heschel, Man is Not Alone)

Author: Matthew Zachary Gindin

Freelance journalist and teacher. I write regularly for the Forward, All That In Interesting, and the Jewish Independent, and have been published in Religion Dispatches, Situate Magazine, Elephant Journal, and elsewhere.

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