I have noticed in myself a tendency to overlook the value of common things. Perhaps I am beginning to pay attention to something like a tree, and just as my wonder is growing––what is this thing? it eats light? it begins as a little nut and changes into a pliable stem and then into a rigid trunk? it is just as large below the earth as above? ––and then I remember that trees are all over the place. There is nothing special about a tree. It's just a tree, you should move on to more exotic things.
Perhaps what I am doing in those moments is letting the laws of economics squash a seed of wonder in my mind that was just beginning to blossom. But it is doubtful that economics has something better to tell me than trees. Economics can tell me only at what prices we are willing to buy and sell. But we should be willing to consider the possibility that we are wrong about what we think does and does not have value.
What is the real reason we value something rare? Is it because it makes us feel superior to others who do not have it? Is the value of a person really comparative like that? Is it reasonable for us to consider ourselves "better off" because we can look down at someone who doesn't have something we have. It doesn't seem to make much sense when I think it through.
G.K. Chesterton is someone who understood this, I think. In his biography of Saint Francis of Assisi, he speaks of how Francis had an ability to focus his attention and respect on a single person. This was usually a poor person, for anyone can focus on a rich person and have a mind full of pleasures and privileges that you may be able to access through that person. But Francis was not thinking about that, he was thinking about the person themselves.
Jesus too has a beautiful ability to see the preciousness of a single person. I want to cultivate this in myself. I think perhaps the reason I display contempt for common things is that I am not hopeful enough to believe that it could actually be true that this world is so abundant that preciousness is scattered everywhere.
Why is it that I would rather believe in a world where most things are of little value except a small piece of gold hidden deep under a mountain, and I have to fight or outwit someone if I am to get it? Does the world we live in not sing of abundance? the world of Winter and Spring, of death and re-birth, of thousands of lives all connected and flowing in and out of each other?