Lessons in Awe
Why awe is integral to the human experience and how it can push us towards a better tomorrow.
I’m sitting on the bus on my way to work. My headphones are plugged into my ears and I’m looking down at my phone. I enter my workspace. It’s a glorious building, built in the 1930s and decked out like an underwater haven. A sea of emerald meets my eye as I walk through the front doors. Though I’ve seen the architecture many times and often take it for granted, when I stop for a moment to look up the sight before me is truly magnificent.
The building seems to take on a life of its own as audiences flow in and out of the space. Each chasing very specific desires. To let go for the evening and escape, to gather as a community, to feel connected to something bigger than themselves. To think in ways they haven’t thought before, to emote, to ask questions, to get back in touch with their sense of awe.
Awe is an interesting thing, something most of us seem to have had an abundance of when we were children. When we are young, we are discovering a lot of things for the first time. Everything seems new and exciting, life’s possibilities seem endless, and we’re processing new experiences at such a rate that our brain almost seems to slow down time, comforting us into believing that the fun will never end. Then it does.
As we begin to mature and our responsibilities start to pile up, our focus becomes more achievement orientated. Our worth gets tangled up in how much we can do instead of how we could live. Because of the busyness and high stakes of everyday life, we engage an almost laser focus in one direction. This direction is typically centred around our careers, or our values, perhaps what we think the meaning of life is. Our curiosity wanes. There is no time for questions, only answers, and when we’re handed that answer, we rarely question it. It is as if the very nature of being an adult is tied up in suffrage, necessary sacrifices, and hard truths. We find so little time to think, that when we do, we often find being alone with our thoughts uncomfortable. So we sit on the bus, with our headphones plugged in, our eyes pointed at our phones, and our brains switched off.
This outlook of suffrage and hard truths being equated with adulthood are so engrained into our psyche that when I got to a point in my life in which my mental health was quite possibly at its worst and I couldn’t see a road out of there, I found myself thinking, “well, at least I finally feel like a grown up”. I cannot begin to stress how wrong that was.
Awe is such an integral part of life. Awe is what made us look up at the stars and wonder what was beyond our atmosphere, it inspired beautiful architecture, food, culture and art. Awe is at least part of what pushed us to communicate, learn and grow as humans.
During the times when I remember to slow down and take in my surroundings, I’m overblown with wonder. We, at our core, are animals with similar needs and instincts to the rest of the animal kingdom. And yet, look at what we have achieved. Though life may be complex, overly strategised and political – filled with sacrifice, built on an uneven playing field – the very fact that we, as simple mammals, constructed all of this in the first place is at least a little insane to think about.
When the Coronavirus pandemic hit, a lot of us made the ultimate sacrifice and isolated ourselves from others. As we mourned for our lost life, and those close to us who had lost their lives, we began to pine for the life that was. We began to feel a renewed sense of awe at life’s little pleasures; perhaps even a little sadness at what our lost loved ones were missing. We wondered about the future, what we wanted to do with ourselves, how we could live.
Throughout lockdown periods and immediately afterward when pockets of industries started to open up again, we rushed to connect, to be with one another, committed to a shared experience. Art, theatre and culture greatly helped us on this mission. In many ways, the arts industry has been helping us heal. As we looked at all we felt we had missed out on, we began to make plans we never would have made and altered our attitude towards life.
When I look at our complex societies, the things we have created and the things we have overcome, I feel optimistic about how we can better ourselves and the world. I wouldn’t say my optimism is unfounded, nor would I declare that my optimism is 100% sound due to the current leaders of the world. Awe cannot fix all of our problems. When we’re feeling down, it would be crass to say that we should simply ‘look up’ and forget about our problems – though it can take the edge off. What I can say with certainty, is that it is awe will push us forward, encourage us to protect our planet, and maybe guide us towards a better tomorrow.
I believe that awe is the key to living life to the fullest. So, go. Experience, create, live. Indulge yourself in awe, be gluttonous with it and never let it go. It will be the best companion this life can give.
I hope you enjoyed reading this article as much as I enjoyed writing it! If you did, feel free to like and subscribe.
If you would like to see more on the subject of finding awe in your life, you might like to read this exclusive interview with Kelsie May who pulled herself out of a dark place and discovered a brilliant new skill for life along the way:
If you want to continue the conversation, you can find me over on @OptimismWrites
About the author
Writing on a variety of subjects that are positive, progressive and pass the time.
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Excellent work. Looking forward to reading more!
Compelling and original writing
Creative use of language & vocab
Heartfelt and relatable
The story invoked strong personal emotions