As I have aged, I have noticed and noted more just how much there is in life to know and experience. Increasingly, I am aware that I won’t get to it all. One lifetime can’t contain or connect with everything. I suppose there is a sadness in that, or at least an honest reckoning. As well, though there is a sort of liberation and an appreciation.
This summer I have found myself marveling at all that I am learning through my children. By this I don’t mean what I am learning about myself in my role as parent (though I have several blog posts I could fill with those musings alone), but rather the parts of life or worlds within life that my children have brought me into contact with.
Have you noticed that about key people in your life? That their interests or passions or way of seeing the world have shaped you? The people we spend time with have influence on us in ways we sometimes underestimate. Their moods and personalities matter, of course, but so too their interest in gardening, or love of architecture, or commitment to eating a healthy diet. What the people we love, love can end up working its way into our minds and hearts as well.
For two weeks, our daughter (who has become a deeply committed violinist over the past four years) participated in a Baroque music program. I went from knowing very little about this musical time-period to looking up words like—oratorio, aria, and recitative—and learning more than I ever thought I would about Handel and Purcell and Bach. Our daughter’s interest in violin and by extension classical music, has invited me into a world, a field of knowledge and history and beauty which I might have only wandered around the edges of. I may never choose to deeply explore, and I may never become a classical music aficionado, but my engagement with and appreciation for the art form has already grown by association.
This accidental immersion experience has left me wondering about how open (or closed) we are to the invitations we receive from others. It seems to me that reading the news these days is almost always a way of seeing people who have reinforced what they already believe or see, or a way for us to do the same. I worry that rather than having new worlds open up, we look for ways only to reinforce what we already think. What new worlds might be opened to us if we took someone else’s passionate interest seriously? What might we learn about our world and ourselves in the process? Whether it is photography or trees, geology or abstract expressionism…there is so much to explore. When we know what someone else cares about, we know more about how they have come to believe as they do. Maybe your friend the photographer has always been adept at noticing details and it is that noticing which has led to what you have always seen as their amazing ability to be considerate of others. We are shaped by those we know, and in knowing them our lives can be informed by what have been the most meaningful pursuits of their lives.
Perhaps summer is a good time to be on the lookout for things that could expand our sense of self and knowledge of the world. Who is inviting you to look at things in new ways? How might you welcome that possibility?
Rev. Shana Lynngood is co-minister of First Unitarian Church of Victoria. She has lived and served in Victoria since 2010
You can read more articles from our interfaith blog, The Spiritual View, HERE