I’m reading phenomenology. I know that’s tantamount to admitting insanity, but there you go. The thing about phenomenology is that, as the study of our lived experience, it requires digging down below the “taken-for-granted.” That is a skill not easily developed. It’s kind of like pulling yourself up by your own bootstraps. To a certain degree, the tradition admits, this is an impossible task. Nonetheless, it is what the phenomenologist strives to do, and one of the key tools in the toolbox is a sense of wonder. Wonder strips away what we expect and sees what our experience really is in all its naked isness. Wonder helps the phenomenologist get to the ground from which our pre-reflective experience of lived life springs.
Now here’s where it gets interesting. Phenomenology is closely related to existentialism, a school of philosophy known for its atheistic thinkers (not all, but most of the biggies.) The spiritual traditions of the world deal in wonder. To “see the world as God sees it,” to use a Christian phrase, or to strip away all unconditioned thought, to use a Zen Buddhist phrase, or to live in the Dao, these are all spiritual language for a sense of wonder at the sheer naked isness of things.
And what phenomenology and the spiritual traditions both agree on is that this is the REAL reality—not the interpreted, agendafied ways we spin our experiences for social reasons. For the phenomenologist meaning emerges in the relationship between the subject and the pre-reflective experience of things. For the mystic it is to touch the face of the eternal. Maybe these are, in a way, sides to the same coin—and wonder marks the edges of the path.
Even the atheist is led into the mystery at the core of existence. What a wonder!