16 May, 2008

This, I Believe

Sam Keen wrote the book about 30 years ago now, The Apology for Wonder. Sam's purpose was to encourage us--in the last quarter of the 20th century--to take a moment, suspend our rational minds, and simply allow awe to happen. He seemed to believe this defense was necessary since we--as American specifically and humans, in general--seem to have become jaded and disconnected from the ability to experience awe.

I think it is time to be reminded of Sam's intent and I want to assert my belief in awe. Wordsworth told us two centuries ago about the splender in a blade of grass. I remember the awe-inspiring moments of my life--ranging from seeing the pictures of the mushroom clouds of nuclear explosions to Neil Armstrong's steps to the births of my daughters. All were awe-inspiring.

I've seen a rainbow disappear into Lake Innisfree and a golden hue be cast along the trees and the road as I drove home from work and the sun was lowering in the west right here in central North Caroline. I've been moved to tears in the anticipation of vacationing with my family and hearing Beethoven's "Ode to Joy" as I hurried to be with them. I stood with my wife at Disney's Hollywood Studios in December and watched fake snow float around us, while listening to Johnny Mathis', "A Christman Song." I thought my heart would burst with the awe and joy of that moment.

I really believe in awe and in our earnest attempt to save it. My teenage and pre-teen daughters use "awesome" so promiscuously . They need to learn what "awe" really is. Their entire generation needs the lesson. They are connected 24/7 and are so bombarded with images and experiences that they are--as Pink Floyd told us two generations ago, "comfortably numb."

What can we do to save "awe"? I think the answer may be in the cliche that "less is more." Perhaps we need to indulge are children less. Perhaps we need to turn off their connections. We can exercise the power of our index finger and turn TV and PCs "off" and let our children simply stop for a moment and reflect. I believe that through encouraging reflection, we can rehabilitate "awe."

Think about it: when was the last time we really enjoyed silence? When was the last time we simply stood quitely in the trees and marveled at the nuances of green in srping? When was the last time we delighted at something as simple as bluebird darting by? These are simple things, but they are also awe-inspiring when we take the time to pause and reflect. And that, I believe, is the core of "awe": taking the time to delight in simple things--like sky and water and trees and time together, instead of always rushing to the next experience. Pause, reflect, and experience awe. It is really so simple. . .