Sunday, July 24, 2011
getting used to the mountains
I'm disappointed in myself.
When I first moved from the flatlands to the majesty of the mountains, I was constantly in awe of where I lived. Snow-dusted rocky peaks formed the sides of a bowl made up of sparkling Flathead Lake. Everywhere I went, I saw the beautiful, majestic mountains. I went to the grocery store and I saw them. I stopped by Target and I saw them. Everywhere I looked was beauty.
But now I find myself rushing more often. Driving, and thinking, "Oh, yeah, mountains...I've seen those before." It's not always but it's enough to make me worry about my human tendency to take great things for granted. I've started to think of getting used to mountains as a metaphor for all too many things in my life.
When I fell in love with my husband, I was in awe of his love, his honesty, his enduring affection, his willingness to communicate, his kindness, his boyish smile. But after 6 years together, I start getting used to coming home to kindness, consideration and a listening heart. I start to take him for granted sometimes. I put less effort into being his wife. It's the emotional equivalent of, "Eh, he'll be there...."
It's so stinkin' dumb. What is it about human nature that we get so used to incredible, beautiful blessings, that we fail to stand in awe of these things? Is it just that we can't maintain that heightened emotion forever? Perhaps, but I still think we can practice appreciation of the beautiful and good gifts in our lives. I think it takes some time and effort that perhaps mountain or husband infatuation don't require in the early days. In infatuation, God gives us that drive to connect, whether to a place or to a person, an early intensity that necessarily cannot last forever. It is the thing that dares us to connect, to risk ourselves, where we might otherwise hesitate. We can't always hold onto that infatuation, and after all, we probably shouldn't. It can be a selfish thing, "You make me feel good, so I want to be around you."
No, I don't think infatuation can live forever, but appreciation and love can. These qualities force us to stop and be fully there. To give thanks, we must first see. We must open our eyes. We must stop the flurry of activity and pay attention. What do I have before me? Where is the beauty? Will I soften my heart and open to it? Today? Not just, what did I appreciate yesterday, but what do I appreciate today?
In 2007, The Washington Post conducted a social experiment. They positioned world class violinist Joshua Bell in a Washington DC subway station during rush hour to see if anyone would recognize him or pay attention to the beauty of his music. The previous night he had played a concert where some tickets sold for $100. But in the course of Bell's 45 minute subway concert, only seven people stopped to listen and only one recognized Joshua Bell. It was interesting that children were often interested in who this guy was playing a violin, but their hurried parents pulled them along. Bell earned only $32.17 in donations for his subway music. It seems we humans are not so prone to appreciate beauty, especially when we have our minds on something else. What other great beauty do we miss in day-to-day life?