If I’m low on caffeine or sugar I get grumpy. A drink of cola can provide a boost until the next proper meal or a tea break with a biscuit or three.
Unfortunately, on this occasion we had only just arrived at the museum and the rest of our group were happily exploring the displays – enjoying the novelty of the signs which said, “Do touch”. There was the soft fur of an animal or the rough pitted surface of a meteorite which had landed in China before being acquired by the museum. The carefully reconstructed skeletons did have a “do not touch” sign next to them but with a little patience you could see how underneath all land mammals have a very similar basic structure. The whole place was filled with a mixture of wonder and a thirst for understanding. As for me, I was still damp from the rain and my feet were getting sore because it had taken longer to walk than we’d first thought.
So I sat on a chair between two display cases with Passerines on my left and Non-Passerines on my right (sorry but I don’t know what they are), facing a stuffed albatross and a model of a whale-headed stork. Directly in front of me was a bust of a Professor of comparative anatomy who had lived in the 19th century. It was not a name I recognised but I guessed that he had some connection with all these animal specimens and models around me.
It would have been so easy just to flit from case to case, look for a second or two before moving on but not really taking anything in. Yet the whole point of the museum was to stop and examine things in detail. The whole enterprise was based on the fact that some one or more had taken time and trouble not only to look closely, but also to compare and contrast one animal with another. Their painstaking attention to detail helped them to come up with ideas about how things worked and to increase their understanding of them.
It is so easy to just dip into things without taking the trouble to properly appreciate them. We rush, we look at many things briefly, but that is not the same as knowing them. It is not the number of friends you have on Facebook that makes for a good social life but how well we truly know them – and getting to know people takes time – more time than glancing at their photos or knowing their favourite quote.
It is not how many religious facts you know that brings spiritual depth to our lives but whether we have stopped long enough to pay proper attention to the insights and experiences we already have.
As the scripture says, “Be still and know that I am God.”