Sitting down to dinner together last year, my friend Jess asked me the same question we had begun to ask one another each time we met: “Where did you see Ted this week?”
Anyone listening to our conversation might assume we were talking about a mutual friend, but that assumption would be wrong. Ted isn’t a friend of ours; in fact, the name doesn’t apply to a person at all. Ted is the term Jess and I apply to the otherwise indescribable feeling of immense wonder and joy that overtakes the soul in moments of appreciation for God’s creation.
Our search for Ted originated from a lengthy conversation one autumn evening. We had met for dinner to catch up on how our semesters were going so far. At first we recounted the obvious questions of classes and work, but gradually, the conversation turned to more abstract, philosophical topics. I found myself describing the sensation of pure joy and awe I had experienced while walking back from church that Sunday, pondering mercy among the changing leaves. For the next hour or so, as Jess and I sat in the dining hall, we split a plate of fries and shared stories of other transcendent moments we had experienced. We described how we often found these moments in deeply intentional conversations with friends, in pieces of art, in long walks admiring nature, or in the quiet moments when God’s impact on the world around us became more tangible than ever. As we talked, Jess wondered aloud if there was a name for that sensation. Jokingly, I replied, “Ted.”
Prior to that evening, when that sensation had appeared, we had appreciated the fleeting moments where it was clearly present. After our conversation, however, Jess and I began to seek Ted actively. We no longer merely noticed its brief appearance, but chose to take hold of it and cherish it each time we were blessed enough to experience it. Naming it gave us a reason to recognize it each time it entered our lives; sharing it gave us cause to seek it actively. When we saw each other, we asked, “Have you seen Ted today?” rather than “How are you?” As we did, Ted became wondrously present rather than infrequent, and the everyday became more beautiful. Conversations with friends became richer; nature seemed to develop new wonders to display. We found God more easily and appreciated His handiwork in our lives more fully.
Among Hillsdale students, there is a tendency to allow our search for the good, the true, and the beautiful to become limited to lofty ideals. As a result, we can fail to see the joy that dwells in the little moments, like laughing with a good friend over a cup of coffee or watching an autumn leaf, caught by the wind, as it comes to rest within the hollow of a tree. I found that the more I sought the experience of Ted, the more I found God within these mundane aspects of life, rather than simply in magnificent ones. By gradually leading myself out of an apathy I didn’t know had overtaken me, I began to cultivate an active awareness of beauty in every moment. The next semester, when I read Hopkins’ poem “Hurrahing in Harvest” for the first time, I found that he had perfectly encapsulated the feeling which Jess and I had named Ted. In our journey through life, we had begun to lift up our hearts and eyes to see “that glory in the heavens [and] glean our Saviour” from the world around us. As we did, we learned that in every moment, joy and wonder “were here and but the beholder / Wanting.” Rather than remaining passive wanderers who happened to stumble upon joy sporadically, seeking Ted allowed us to become active, intentional beholders of its source: God’s glory.
“Hurrahing in Harvest” | Gerard Manley Hopkins
Summer ends now; now, barbarous in beauty, the stooks arise
Around; up above, what wind-walks! what lovely behaviour
Of silk-sack clouds! has wilder, wilful-wavier
Meal-drift moulded ever and melted across skies?
I walk, I lift up, I lift up heart, eyes,
Down all that glory in the heavens to glean our Saviour;
And, éyes, heárt, what looks, what lips yet gave you a
Rapturous love’s greeting of realer, of rounder replies?
And the azurous hung hills are his world-wielding shoulder
Majestic—as a stallion stalwart, very-violet-sweet!—
These things, these things were here and but the beholder
Wanting; which two when they once meet,
The heart rears wings bold and bolder
And hurls for him, O half hurls earth for him off under his feet.
Ceanna Hayes is a junior studying Politics