Edging Toward Enchantment: Updrafts of Enchantment

Many Christians struggle with disenchantment, but our experience isn't wholly characterized by disenchantment. We're still haunted. Here and there we still bump into the magic. We're interrupted by beauty and ugliness. We're caught up by wonder and awe. We suspect there is more to the universe than the equations of particle physics. We revel in the mystery.

Yes, we have our doubts. But we also, from time to time, doubt our doubts. Belief nags at us, so we crave help with our unbelief.

In his book A Secular Age Charles Taylor argues that modernity isn't a wholly disenchanted space. Modernity is characterized by cross-pressures of belief and unbelief, enchantment and disenchantment, immanence and transcendence. Yes, there are the downward pressures of disenchantment, which collapse the spiritual and transcendent into the physical and the immanent. But here and there in the secular world we also experience updrafts of enchantment, a pull toward the heavens.

As Taylor writes (p. 549), the secular is "that open space where you can feel the winds pulling you, now to belief, now to unbelief."

Of course, each person experiences the cross-pressures of these countervailing winds to different degrees. Some feel the downward pressure of disenchantment more than others. Doubts are heavier, belief is harder. Still, if you're a Christian you're at least haunted by Christianity. And all of us, like I said, bump into the magic from time to time.

So I think the first thing we have to do, if we want to edge toward enchantment, is name and recognize these cross-pressures and then learn to surf the updrafts of enchantment.

Our church retreat is on the Frio River. The Frio has carved out a small canyon in the Texas hills. So when you sit by the river and look to the top of the canyon you can watch the birds circling, riding the rising warm air from the bottom of the canyon to the top. As the air warms in the Texas sun it rises. This rising air is called a thermal, and birds will ride these thermals upward. Like an elevator of air.

These thermals aren't strong winds or updrafts. They are gentle and subtle.

When I think about edging toward enchantment I think about those birds on the Frio river. I think about catching subtle updrafts of transcendence, thermals of enchantment in our day to day lives.

Boiled down to its essence, I think you keep in touch with enchantment by intentionally attending to the thermals of enchantment, subtle as they are, to rest in them and ride them upward. I think a lot of our struggles with disenchantment stem from failing to attend to the updrafts of transcendence in our lives. We binge on disenchantment, ruminating on everything that gives us doubt. But we don't give equal time to the magic and mystery.

For many of us, reconnecting with enchantment will be an intentional, attentional practice.

Enchantment is like a bird spreading its wings to feel and search for that subtle thermal updraft.

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