Awe

Jaw-dropping, wide-eyed, childlike wonder.

Jaw-dropping, wide-eyed, childlike wonder.

When was the last time you were deeply awed by something? How often do you let yourself be filled with gobsmacking wonder by the fact that any of this happens at all? The universe is utterly insane, completely arbitrary and there’s absolutely no reason it should happen at all except that it couldn’t have happened any other way.

So be sure to marvel: take a long moment to look at that bug you nearly stepped on but didn’t; allow yourself to wonder how bizarre it is that its skeleton is on the outside and that it moves by pushing fluids into each limb, like a micro hydraulic machine. Realize how amazing it is that Nature packed as much intelligence as it could into such a tiny being and just how perfectly it fits in its environment – a puzzle piece with no gaps. It isn’t ugly or beautiful, it just is; it’s shape and coloration is determined by thousands upon thousands of generations becoming the best that it can be for its situation.

Be aware and let yourself be amazed by us, too. We’re pretty strange creatures when you stand back and look at us as though you were a visiting extra-terrestrial: we are ape-like, but hairless, and we come in a variety of shapes and colours. Presumably we developed those colours because it suited our environment, but then something truly unique happened: we got smart and our ability (habilis) meant we could now change our environment to suit us instead of us having to change ourselves to suit it. This allowed us to leave our niches, to mix and spread over the entire planet. This also means that our ability to notice the differences between us is vestigial, obsolete. It is no longer relevant to note that this person’s skin is darker than that one’s. It doesn’t provide relevant information. A person’s location on the planet no longer correlates to their origins or birthplace, since anyone can go and live anywhere, and we’ve been doing just that for several generations. So no one is ‘out of place’ since there is no longer such thing as a person’s place other than where they find themselves presently.

And what is it that makes us all seem so different from each other as a species, yet often most other species ‘pretty-much all look the same’? Is that really the case? A scarab beetle looks like any other scarab beetle to us, but among scarab beetles, Johnny’s got a big nose and Lucida has stubby wings but lovely curves. Tigers vary a lot among themselves but we’re only used to having to distinguish a tiger from a mosquito, not one tiger from another.

Awe is something we have to make time for and we do that by paying attention. Many religions preach the practice of gratitude, to appreciate what we have or who we are; but I feel that awe is the precursor or the catalyst for gratitude. When you find the boring amazing, when you thrill at graffitti because it’s a colorful expression that some unique being was here and that they were able to leave their mark upon the world, or when your unbridled grief is perceived as a powerful manifestation of an absent loved-one, echoing through your soul, you can more easily be grateful that you have the special opportunity to feel the amazing riches of this one, precious life in all its chaotic glory.

Thank you and be well.

Thomas

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