Beholding the Wonder of the World

“Move from seeing to beholding: To see a situation is to catch the facts of the matter. To behold it is to witness the story. If you dwell entirely with statistics and data, you will be a burnt match within months. Move from just seeing the world to beholding the world. Seeing is assessment and analysis; beholding is wonder and curiosity.” – by Martin Shaw in Emergence Magazine

We have to see, of course, though from my author’s perspective seeing is a small part of observing and being a true part of the world. If this idea interests you, I invite you to click on the link above and read Shaw’s perceptive essay “Navigating the Mysteries.”

When we create ourselves and the world we inhabit, it’s as Shaw says, we build with wonder and curiosity once we’ve learned to “behold.”

This is how an author creates a good story to tell. And, it’s what discerning readers want to find in a great novel. Why not create our lives and view the world as a great novel as well?

Years ago, “Rosicrucian Digest Magazine” had a one-page feature called “Worlds of Wonder.” My short essays about the natural world appeared in that section three times. I chose the out-of-doors for my essays because that’s where I see the greatest mysteries. They are there ready for us to behold rather than to catalogue into graphs and spreadsheets that arise out of simply seeing what’s before our physical eyes and our scientific instruments.

Those who base their approach to life on seeing and nothing else will be like the millipede that froze in place when asked which of his feet he moved first.  If you behold the world and your place in it, that kind of question is laughable–or perhaps sad.

Shaw suggests that rather than listening to the uncertainty of most of the voices around us, we open up ourselves to the mystery. “The correct response to uncertainty,” he says, “is mythmaking. It always was. Not punditry, allegory, or mandate, but mythmaking. The creation of stories. We are tuned to do so, right down to our bones.” The mythic painting in the drawing is, for those who behold, more informative than a photograph.

His essay is the best account I’ve seen lately about how writers work and how we as people should work. All other approaches are an illusion and create more uncertainty.


Malcolm R. Campbell’s contemporary fantasy novel set in Glacier National Park is based in part on a very old myth where he wound the truth of the story he needed to tell. Pictured here is the audio edition.