This was the advice of Professor Stephen Hawking at his seventieth birthday celebration. Hawking, one of the greatest scientists in the world, has spent his career uncovering some of the deepest secrets of the cosmos. It is his sense of wonder which maintains the momentum of his journey of explanation. You might think that this is obvious. The dark dome of the sky is more inspiring than the muddy ground but we sometimes forget. As adults, we sometimes lose that sense of wonder which characterized much of our childhood. My children, Elijah and Rachel do not have that problem. My son thinks every apple he eats is “the best apple ever” or when I give him a hug that it’s “the best hug in the universe!” we have to guard against being jaded and look at the world through their eyes as much as possible.
The Rabbis tell us of the legend the Exodus from Egypt, complaining about the mud on their sandals from the sea bed. Moses berates them and orders them to look up at the vast walls of water either side of them, evidence of G-d’s miracle which surrounds them. So many times we get sucked into our day to day routines and miss the wonders of the world which are right there in front of our face.
Imagine the excitement of seeing snow or the ocean for the first time. Now think how you can remake the way you look at those wonders next time you see them. Yes, we do have a certain amount of drudgery which is hard to avoid but, as long as we take note of Professor Hawking’s words, we will remember to look up at the stars and not just down at our feet.
Rabbi Malcolm Cohen