Summer is often filled with travel or at least some extra reading time. I’ve been doing a ton of reading, mostly nonfiction, back and forth between a dozen titles on my kindle. It’s been so fun! I’ll have reviews for you toward the end of the summer, but this one I MUST tell you guys about now, just in case you find some time to read and need a good recommendation. I had a tough time selecting which quotations to include because there were so many profound ones.
Phenomenal: A Hesitant Adventurers Search for Wonder in the Natural World by Leigh Ann Henion
“Motherhood affects everything, but does it have to change everything about who I am and what I choose to pursue?” A fundamentally drained new mother undertakes several journeys of natural phenomena around the globe in at attempt toward emotional healing. As she rekindles her sense of awe, she shares reflections on parenting, following your passions, and living fully. In between time at home, she travels to Mexico to observe the tiny spot where Monarch butterflies migrate; Puerto Rico to experience the bioluminescent waters; to Catatumba, Venezuela to see the abundant lightning, to Hawaii and their volcanos, to Sweden and the beautiful northern lights, to Africa to experience the Great Migration, and to Australia, where she sees a total solar eclipse.
“A sense of wonder is, I think, what Einstein meant by a cosmic religious feeling. And that is really what I’m seeking on this journey. It’s an admission of human frailty and the perfect magnificence of earth, the universe, time, in a way that removes the masks of humankind’s many religions to reveal their connectivity, the fact that we are—in the end—one.”
Modern science/culture dismisses events if they can’t be rationally explained. Sometimes, though, the mystery can’t be physically explained. The word phenomenal actually means direct observation, and it’s the essence of the philosophical discipline of phenomenology, the study of consciousness from the first-person field of view.
“’To form a culture like ours, a culture predicated on the avoidance of disarray,’ psychologist Kirk Schneider reasons, ‘we need to cultivate intricate defenses against mystery, and to acquire sophisticated strategies that enable us to skirt the complexities of being. Hence, much of our speech is geared not to acknowledge our humility before life, but our control, coordination, and management.’”
“’Man feels himself isolated in the cosmos, because he is no longer involved in nature and has lost his emotional unconscious identity with natural phenomena,’ Jung noted. Rationalism, he believed, has left us with a diminished capacity to respond to the numinous, or spiritual, symbols and ideas all around us. ‘Most of our difficulties come from losing contact with our instincts, the age-old forgotten wisdom stored up in us.’ He called this the 400,000-year-old that lives in all of us.”
Sure, we can’t all afford the expense of the time to leave our lives and travel the world. But we can all relate to what Henion says about having experiences like this:
“To trust the senses—the mortal body—is to risk sounding crazy, especially, it seems, if you’re a woman. She’s seeing things. She’s hearing things. She’s so sensitive. Read: She’s irrational. And this I have internalized. Who am I to trust my body, my senses, my instincts? Who am I to know how to raise my child without consulting parenting books and up-to-date rearing studies? Who am I to try to find God outside of an institutionally approved, fully vetted doctrine? Who am I to think I can pursue impractical dreams? Who am I to be taken seriously? Who am I to think I’m capable or worthy? Who am I to . . . Who am I? The very language we use to talk about our most intimate desires makes it seem as if we’ve been having a collective identity crisis. We want to believe in ourselves. We want to have faith in ourselves. It’s as if we’ve begun—in a networked world that connects us to each other in ideas but not in body, in a culture that pushes individualism yet shames us out of navel gazing—to question our very existence.“
Experiencing these natural marvels through Henion’s eyes was fascinating to me. She glimpses an underlying universal wholeness many times and describes it eloquently. If you’re into nature and the wonder it inspires, you will LOVE this book!