I have been meditating on two passages I’ve read this past week. Both of them commend the art of appreciation. The first quote comes from Gerald May’s wonderful book, The Awakened Heart (you may know him from his more popular work, Addiction and Grace).
A certain asceticism of mind, a gentle intellectual restraint, is needed to appreciate the important things in life. To be open to the truth of love, we must relinquish our frozen comprehensions and begin instead to appreciate. To comprehend is to grasp; to appreciate is to value. Appreciation is gentle seeing, soft acknowledgment, reverent perception. Appreciation can be a pleasant valuing: being awed by a night sky, touched by a symphony, or moved by a caress without needing to understand why. It can also be painful: feeling someone’s suffering, being shocked by loss or disaster without comprehending the reason. Appreciation itself is a kind of love; it is our direct human responsiveness, valuing what we cannot grasp. Love, the love of our heart, is not what we think. It is always ready to surprise us, to take us beyond our understandings into a reality that is both insecure and wonderful.
The second comes from Mister Rogers:
I think I spend a lot of time trying to comprehend things. I read books about love, for instance, hoping to understand it or, as Gerald May puts it, grasp it. Perhaps I feel that by comprehending love I can better control it.
But these quotes cause me to pause. It rings true to me that love is not something to be understood but appreciated. Valued. To hold something as holy, sacred. To be in awe, with or without understanding the reasons why.
Maybe this is something like what Jesus meant by being born again, or becoming like a child, or having eyes to see. Maybe to love oneself and one’s neighbor and one’s God is about being humble and giddy and vulnerable enough to allow yourself to be in awe. To appreciate someone or something without grasping them or it. This, I think, is love at it’s best and purest.
Who or what might you show appreciation towards today?