I Asked for Wonder

“Do not say, “Why were the former days better than these?”
    For it is not from wisdom that you ask this.”
-Ecclesiastes 7:10, NRSVue

Dear friends,

The music and movies they’re making these days just aren’t as good as the ones they used to make, right?

In October, Kristen’s parents volunteered to watch our kids so we could go to a movie, but when we checked the show listings, nothing looked interesting. We weren’t interested in seeing Saw 10, and we agreed that we would watch the romantic comedy only if it was available on a streaming service we already paid for, and if there was nothing else to watch.

The next day, we were talking about what a great movie Beethoven (1992) was, and arguing about whether the better Parent Trap film featured Haley Mills (1961) or Lindsay Lohan (1998). Kristen disagrees, but the correct answer is Haley Mills. Then Kristen’s mom asked us what movie we had seen last night, and we told her why we hadn’t gone.

Kristen’s mom remarked that movies just aren’t as good as they used to be. I thought that was kind of funny because we had just been celebrating older films that if, instead of us having seen them as children, they had been in theaters the previous night, we almost certainly would not have gone.

A little later, I read an article in which the author lamented that a band that he loved, The National, seemed to be not as good as they used to be. The author said they had always seemed to have just the right song for major transitions in his life, but at his most recent transition, their most recent album didn’t seem to have the same power.

I got to thinking about why that might be. Maybe it’s because the songs and movies and stories we love from years past aren’t just the stories, but the memory of what at least seemed to be better days, of laughing with our siblings and childhood friends about those stories of children getting a one-up on grown-ups, of having someone finally put our teenage angst into words, of songs or shows that marked the beginning of a transition to what we were nervous about then, but what ultimately proved to be a better life.

Maybe it’s because we’re comparing the best songs and movies from the past with the mediocre songs and movies of today. Maybe it’s because of a sense of wonder we had when we were younger that has slipped away from us.

The great rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel wrote this prayer: “I did not ask for success; I asked for wonder. And You gave it to me.”


Rev. David Schell