You know when you hear a quote that throws open a door in your mind?
Well, the other Friday evening, I heard a line from Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel that let a roaring gust of fresh air into my thinking.
“The beginning of wisdom is awe.”
I remember sitting there that Friday evening feeling delightfully stunned. In our daily comings and goings, being wise can seem so lofty and distant. But what Rabbi Heschel seems to be saying is, No, wisdom is available to any one of us who is willing to risk awe.
And awe can be a risk, can’t it? It is safer to glaze over, be jaded and indifferent. Because awe – well, awe is all tied up in love, like the audience member rapt at the beauty of the music or the painter watching the setting sun as if for the first time.
In no uncertain terms, awe moves us. And it can feel safer to stay where we are with what we know. But the limited universe of what we know seems a hard place to find wisdom.
Awe happens so much less in our hard head than in our soft heart. And that’s a bold place to live from. But it is there, in this bold place, that wisdom begins.
And that, for me, is one roaring gust of fresh air.