My sons love The Wild Kratts. The PBS kids’ show features the real-life brothers, Chris and Martin Kratts, who start each episode introducing the kids at home to wild animals in different parts of the world. As they describe the amazing features of these animals – their ability to leap high, run fast, or fly far – they begin to imagine what it would be like to have these “creature powers” for themselves. They become more and more excited, and finally turn to each other, shout, “What if?” and become cartoons.
Declan and Ronan are so inspired by The Wild Kratts that they’ve developed their own imaginary show, The Discover Brothers. The Discover Brothers explore the outdoors, and when they get excited, they turn to each other and shout, “I wonder!” And then they, too, become cartoons. As Declan will tell you, “It’s animazing! Get it? Animated and amazing?”
Their playful sense of imagination is animazing. My Discover Brothers are silly, and funny, and wise. They have discovered the wisdom of curiosity, the way it creates life and frees us and opens us up to new possibilities. I’ve been contemplating the wisdom of an “animating phrase” this week, the power of words that can animate us, that can shake up our expectations, help us to relax our grip, and open us up to surprise. “What if” and “I wonder” are good phrases to invite into areas of resistance and pain. When you notice negative emotions rising, when you are frustrated or annoyed or bored, try inviting curiosity in as well, exploring what is beneath the emotions, and what the invitation within them might be.
My own animating phrase is, “What are you up to, God?” This playfully worded question reminds me that I don’t have everything figured it out. When I am feeling angry or just annoyed, remembering to wonder about God’s presence and God’s invitation is freeing, and helps me to harbor curiosity and an openness to surprise. These animating phrases aren’t magical, and they don’t make the hard things disappear. They simply loosen our grip, and create a little space for wonder.
I invite you to play with this idea of animating phrases this week. What words might breathe life and openness into your days?