BRISK MORNING WALK in suburban Autumn sunlight, through and over ochres, yellows, dark greens and gold. Bright “lovely day”s albeit slightly hunched and well wrapped against the first light frost of the season. I pass a mother, child and pushchair trundling towards the shops – and I remember being the child, in another chair, trundling towards other shops, more than fifty years ago. And even so, everything about this morning seems bright and new. Striding, I observe myself in contemplation and I smile. Or sometimes I frown. Catching oneself in contemplation one usually either smiles or frowns. Either way, one concludes that life is good. Sweet. It’s good to be alive on a day like today. But just as surely, it’s a mystery, too … as others have thought before me …
The most beautiful experience we can have is the mysterious. It is the fundamental emotion that stands at the cradle of true art and true science. Whoever does not know it and can no longer wonder, no longer marvel, is as good as dead, and his eyes are dimmed. It was the experience of mystery – even if mixed with fear – that engendered religion. A knowledge of the existence of something we cannot penetrate, our perceptions of the profoundest reason and the most radiant beauty, which only in their most primitive forms are accessible to our minds: it is this knowledge and this emotion that constitute true religiosity. In this sense, and only this sense, I am a deeply religious man … I am satisfied with the mystery of life’s eternity and with a knowledge, a sense, of the marvellous structure of existence – as well as the humble attempt to understand even a tiny portion of the Reason that manifests itself in nature.
From “The World As I See It,” an essay originally published in “Forum and Century,” vol. 84, pp. 193-194, in the Forum series, Living Philosophies.
Radiant beauty. In my heart, and before my very eyes, on an ordinary Autumn morning. This Mystery is Good. Life. God.