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OPINION: The power of celebration

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Duane Gines | Guest Writer

Abraham Heschel reminds us of the importance of living in celebration, wonder and amazement and what better time to be reminded of this than during the Christmas celebration.

The following Abraham Heschel quotes speak to wonder, amazement and celebration:

• “As civilization advances, the sense of wonder declines. Such decline is an alarming symptom of our state of mind. Mankind will not perish for want of information; but only for want of appreciation.” 

• “Wonder rather than doubt is the root of all knowledge.”

• “Our goal should be to live life in radical amazement—to 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.”

• “People of our time are losing the power of celebration. Instead of celebrating, we seek to be amused or entertained. Celebration is an active state, an act of expressing reverence or appreciation. To be entertained is a passive state–it is to receive pleasure afforded by an amusing act or a spectacle. Celebration is a confrontation, giving attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions.”

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I’d like to elaborate a bit on the magical quality of wonder. This seems to be what children do best. It is this wonder, this curiosity, which allows them to see life fresh and whole. As we age, we tend to see things as stale and commonplace and “same-old.”  Heschel reminds us to avoid this trap and to wonder at a deeper level. He even reminds us that to grow spiritually, we need to be amazed on a regular basis.

I was asked by a friend what it means to live in celebration and to give attention to the transcendent meaning of one’s actions. I believe that giving pointed attention to others as we interact with them is one of the principle ways we give transcendent meaning to our actions. Living in the “now” and being totally presentgives transcendence to what is said and done and strengthens the connections that are so important in meaningful social interactions. It is also a gift if we can be playful in relating to others, which demonstrates our interest in them and their lives.

Some have said that people won’t remember what you said when they were with you, but they will remember how they felt in your presence. If what they felt was valued and appreciated,then you were successful in giving “transcendent meaning” to that person and that interaction.

Heschel’s quotes speak for themselves, and I invite each of you to consider what they mean to you. Wishing all of you a transcendent Holiday Season!

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