I remember the first time I watched Jurassic World. Sitting on my couch a few days later, with my Chihuahua sitting on my legs, I had a startling thought: What if tiny lap dogs went extinct instead of the dinosaurs? I wondered if, in this imaginary universe, Jurassic World would center on a bunch of little dogs pouncing around the jungle. I also wondered whether Chihuahuas would be just as enthralling in this imaginary universe as dinosaurs are in ours.
Granted, part of the fascination with dinosaurs is their size. But I don’t think their monstrous size drives our enchantment to the creatures. Otherwise we would be just as enamored with elephants and blue whales. Instead, I believe the driving force is mystery. Dinosaurs sit shrouded in darkness, touched only by our imaginations.
Contrast this with Chihuahuas, to whom we barely give passing glances (unless they’re super cute). In a manner of speaking, nothing makes a dinosaur any more objectively exciting than a lap dog. Yet, being frozen forever in the fossil record, dinosaurs command our attention.
Here’s the point: Humans are enthralled by mystery. We strain our eyes to predict the end of a movie, to imagine what dinosaurs looked like.
But there’s a tragedy. In the midst of straining our eyes at mystery, we completely forget that an infinite amount of fascinating beauty sits right before us. Sits on us, in the case of Chihuahuas.
Consider the night stars. Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “If the stars should appear one night in a thousand years, how would men believe and adore; and preserve for many generations the remembrance of the city of God which had been shown!” However (and he mentions this further in the quotation), the irony is that, in our world, the night stars come out every night, and they pass by most of us unnoticed.
Whether it is stars, orange juice, or Chihuahuas, beauty surrounds us. And I use beauty in the full power of the term: All of those things are reminders of the supreme beauteous glory of our Creator. Yet, because our ability to see beauty atrophies, like glow-in-the-dark bedroom stars slowly dimming as the night wears on, we must practice noticing this beauty. We must strain our eyes to see the beauty that is right in front of us.
How do we recover our sight? How do we heal our vision to see the beauty that God has steeped this world in? Here’s one of many solutions: Story.
Perhaps you’ve read a story and been fascinated by how the author turned something seemingly insignificant into a riveting plot. How a train ride or a chance meeting in a grocery store becomes the basis for an enthralling story. I don’t think this is because fiction stories are more “exciting” than true ones. In fact, every one of our lives is an epic, filled to the brim with love and loss, hope and hurt. I would argue that whoever you are, your story is greater than the best book ever written.
See, stories remind us of how exciting our lives are. Like when you play in the park with your child and remember how much fun it is to play, even as an adult.
One of the amazing things about stories is that they force you to pause. Sitting to watch a movie intently, or taking time in reading a book, allows you to breathe and slow down, beginning to taste life instead of just swallowing it whole. Which is why, when you leave a movie feeling inspired, you feel more alive and more connected to the world. You have begun to remember how beautiful life really is.
G.K. Chesterton, in his book Orthodoxy, said, “Fairy tales say that apples were golden only to refresh the forgotten moment when we found that they were green. They make rivers run with wine only to make us remember, for one wild moment, that they run with water.”
Don’t get too busy with the world, with work, even with people, that you forget to look around you. The beauty of God, shown through His creation, is screaming out. In people, in pets, in everything. And once you start looking for it, you will see that it has always been there. Waiting patiently for you to notice it.