“Wherever life takes us, there are always moments of wonder” (Jimmy Carter).
MORE OFTEN THAN NOT, SURPRISES SHOULD BE WELCOMED. Occasionally, the unexpected will turn out to be hurtful or harmful, but for every such unwelcome surprise there are many more that we should be glad to experience. The completely predictable life would be a dull one that few of us would enjoy for long.
It’s important to be people who are “surprise-able.” We need to be more like the children we once were, eager to be astonished and amazed. Even being startled would be good for us now and then. The life of joy is always the life of wonder and the life of growth. Whatever opens our eyes and expands our experience is to be embraced rather than avoided. Most of us tend in the direction of mental sleepiness, and so we need an occasional thunderbolt to wake us up. “Surprise,” as Boris Pasternak said, “is the greatest gift that life can give us.”
But if it’s important to value surprise in our own lives, it’s also important to be people who bring surprises into the lives of others. We’d do our friends and family a great favor by becoming more imaginative in our interaction with them. Pleasantly surprising others is a sign of thoughtfulness, for one thing. It says that we’re not taking those around us for granted but are looking for fresh, invigorating gifts we can give them. But being a person who surprises others is also a sign that we’re fully engaged with life. It’s evidence that we’re moving forward, glad to taste more of the fascinating variety of life.
Real life is a good deal more unpredictable than the safe existence many of us have settled for. Granted, we couldn’t get along without the help that good habits give us, but too much habit can be deadly. If we never leave our comfortable ruts, the surprises that can turn us into wise and joyful people won’t be able to reach us. And so real life calls us to come out of our comfort — into a realm where our hearts can be pierced by the beauty of unexpected truth.
“Pass in, pass in,” the angels say,
“In to the upper doors,
Nor count compartments of the floors,
But mount to paradise
By the stairway of surprise.”
(Ralph Waldo Emerson)