Reductionism is lame.
That has to be one of the most straightforward blog post titles I've ever used. I don't make any apologies, though. I run into this every single day it seems, and although I try to do my best when it comes to being patient and understanding, this particular attitude really bugs me.
While there may be several ways of defining it, here I'm referring quite specifically to an attitude that might be summed up like this: "It's just a sunset... geez!" Here's another (backdrop of a beautiful autumn day as the leaves cascade down onto a winding nature trail): "Ugh... gotta rake soon!" Or how about this gem: "It was just a kiss. Why are you making such a big deal out of it?!"
Don't get me wrong. As a general rule of thumb, I think it's remarkably important to try and understand the "parts" that make up the whole. But when we forget that there is a greater meaning than just the "parts" in life, we slip rather quickly into the old reductionist attitude that, "Life is just one damned thing after another." The problem I have with this way of looking at the world is simple. How do you know?
Even within the study of theology, far from its stereotypical portrayal as a walk in the clouds or a vague meandering through completely theoretical concepts, the truly humble student quickly discovers that the seemingly mundane oftentimes communicates the most profound realities that lie beyond our limited senses. There are a lot of things in life that require a little leap of faith. How do you know whether or not that person you've got a huge crush on likes you, too? You don't. How do you know that you'll have another day in this life? You don't.
We want so desperately to break everything apart and understand every single aspect of it that we sometimes forget that we can't possibly comprehend even the simplest things (like a sunset, a kiss, etc.) Here's the hard truth though: some things can never be understood because they're not meant to be. They're meant to be experienced, witnessed, drunk deep into our very souls. Some things are just downright beautiful and even life-changing and we can't really explain why.
So, the next time someone is being a total "Debbie Downer" reductionist when you marvel at a beautiful painting ("Who cares?") or you stop to joyfully admire a newborn ("All babies do is cry and poop their pants! No thank you!"), ignore their nearsighted negativity and, rather than getting upset with them, try and be positive. Try to help them to open their eyes, dig a little deeper, and be receptive to experiencing the unimaginable beauty that is around us all each and every day. It's like I always try to remember and recommend to others: "DON'T FORGET TO WONDER!!!"