I was talking to a group about the experience of wonder; how it is more than just an emotional response to something, more than just a subjective effect caused by what is out there in the world. Quite the opposite, it is an intuition that what we meet in this experience is completely other and independent from us – that it is, strangely, outside of our experience. And then I came across this quote from Marilynne Robinson’s Gilead, where John Ames is reflecting on his use of the word ‘just':
“I almost wish that I could have written that the sun just shone and the tree just glistened, and the water just pourred out of it and the girl just laughed – when it’s used that way it does indicate a stress on the word that follows it, and also a particular pitch of voice. People talk that way when they want to call attention to a thing existing in excess of itself, so to speak, a sort of purity or lavishness, at any rate ordinary in kind but exceptional in degree… There is something real signified by the word ‘just’ that proper language won’t acknowledge.” [Virago, p32]
It reminds me of Chesterton’s explanation of fairytales: We need to invent golden apples on golden trees in stories for slightly older children, to remind them of the wonder they experienced as little children when they first came face to face with the sheer being of an ordinary apple and an ordinary tree.