At Grace Church this morning I was struck by the use of the word “astonished” as it appeared in the lesson from the Gospels assigned for today. In the story that is told, Jesus is responsible for healing a man who has been blind since birth. Those who see the newly-sighted man are astonished. Those who confront Jesus about this miracle are astonished at his answers to their questions. It appears that astonishment is rampant, especially among those who would ordinarily be doubters of who he is and what he is capable of doing.
I tried to think of when I might have used the word in my own life, and I find myself thinking about watching a professional magician, and being astonished at the disappearance of the item he was holding in his hand. I remember the first time I purchased a computer, and when the IT people installed it in my office, I was astonished when the screen lit up and the words appeared on the screen. When I was present for the birth of our children I was astonished that this living, breathing child had emerged from my wife’s body. The first time I saw Copenhagen I was astonished at the beauty of the small statue of the mermaid in the port.
Astonishment, to me, is more than a cerebral acknowledgement of something…it is a visceral reaction to something unexpected. My whole being is shocked and overwhelmed. Not just my mind, but my whole body.
I am told that the word comes from Old French, and means “to be struck with lightening.” That is exactly what I am saying. It is a physical, overhwelming experience which is more than just a mental note to be remembered. There is a sensation of total surprise which shakes one’s whole being.
I have heard people say something like, “Nothing surprises me anymore.” We live in an extraordinary age where magical things happen all the time. I am awed by what I am capable of doing on a computer. Just the simple thing of adding italics with the press of a key, or planting a photo into a blog posting is mind-boggling to me. I have stopped trying to figure out how it happens. I don’t need to know. I just need to know how to accomplish it.
Photoshopping, as negative as it can be at times, is something that is astonishing. To print a picture I have taken, but removing a tree visually that stood in front of a piece of the picture is just uncanny.
I still don’t understand exactly what 3-D printing is all about, but the products I have heard about are astonishing.
But it doesn’t have to be computerized to be astonishing. Sending a heavy, metal ship into space and landing it precisely on the moon is astonishing. For someone like me, even putting a glob of batter on a pan, sticking it in the oven, and having it come out looking like a delicious chocolate chip cookie is astonishing.
Imagine, then, the astonishment of men and women over 2,000 years ago, who saw a sighted man walking down the street who they knew had been blind from birth. It is equally astonishing to me that we are at a point in medical history when such a thing is within the realm of human possibility. I’m appropriately astonished.
Photo Credit: Maurice