The Beginning of All Serious Thought

One’s every encounter with the world has always been an encounter with an enigma that no merely physical explanation can resolve. /

The sleeper, as he ascends from his dream toward the morning’s light, may momentarily drift back again more deeply into the illusory world—or half-illusory world—from which he is trying to emerge. He continues to hear his name called but still lingers at the boundary between sleep and waking consciousness. For a time, the figures of his dream retain a certain ghostly clarity, even as they have begun to melt away before the realities they symbolize, as though the dream were reluctant to release him.

In a few moments, however, his eyes open and the fantasy entirely fades: the tower vanishes amid the soft ringing of wind chimes, the windblown valley dissolves beneath the billowing of white cotton curtains stirred by the breeze, the murmur of the reeds along the river’s bank becomes the rustling of the leaves below the sill, and the voice that seemed so strange and faintly dreadful is all at once familiar and inviting. In the more vivid light of the waking world, he knows he has returned to a reality far richer and more coherent than the one he has left behind. Having, however, passed through distinct levels of awareness in his ascent from the twilight in that valley to the radiance of this morning, he might momentarily wonder whether even now he is entirely awake, or whether there remains a still greater wakefulness, and a still fuller light, to which he might yet rise.

The beginning of all philosophy, according to both Plato and Aristotle, lies in the experience of wonder. One might go further and say that the beginning of all serious thought—all reflection upon the world that is not merely calculative or appetitive—begins in a moment of unsettling or delighted surprise. Not, that is, ...

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Also in this Issue

Issue 25 / June 25, 2015
  1. Editors’ Note

    Issue 25: The hopes and fears of invisibility, Hudson Taylor’s mission at 150, and the mystery of the world. /

  2. How to Become Invisible

    Scientists are working harder than ever to help us disappear. But maybe Christians already have. /

  3. ‘Prayed for 24 Willing, Skillful Laborers’

    150 years ago this week, Hudson Taylor launched one of the greatest missionary endeavors in church history amid despair and euphoric faith. /

  4. Forty Years

    ‘That summer sojourn, / forty years gone’ /

  5. Wonder on the Web

    Issue 25: Links to amazing stuff. /

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