“He who can no longer pause to stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead;
his eyes are closed.”~Albert Einstein.
I remember very clearly being taken by my father to see an amazing sight. It was one of the nights on board the SS Ascania, the ship that took us to Jamaica in 1963. After we had gone to bed, my father appeared and took my brother and I up on deck, to see a sky awash with stars. We could see the Milky Way, Orion’s belt, the Plough, but what was amazing was to see more stars than sky! Up until then we had been city dwellers, so light pollution limited our view of the heavens at night. Even on our summer treks to the campground by the sea, we had never seen so many stars. The tropical night sky is different from those seen in more northern latitudes. Of course my amazement was tinged by a little bit of embarrassment. My ‘robe’ also doubled as a beach cover-up. I just knew all of those people would recognize the fact next day when I wore it to the pool!
My love of mountains is sincere. I have often said I would prefer to live in a house lower down the hillside with a view of the mountains, than a house perched atop a mountain looking down to the valley below. Ironically, I have neither, I live in a house bordered on the east by the Atlantic and on the West by the Everglades, an area so close to sea level we will be the first ones gone in the coming sea level rise! But in my mind I carry the mountains with me: the Blue Mountains of Jamaica; the Mocho Mountains of Clarendon; the hills and Bull Head Mountain that surrounded my home and high school growing up in Jamaica; and of course the severe and mysterious mountains of Snowdonia, Wales.
Mother Nature provides us with some of the most mouth-dropping scenery we could ever hope to see. If you are a travel lover like me, you will take every opportunity to get out and about and see another spot of the world. There is so much to be in awe of, so much to admire in our world. How did we get so lucky? How did this planet come to house us, to provide for us, to nurture and care for us? It may be on our way to work that we catch sight of an amazing sunrise. It may be just before or just after a shower of rain that we see the sun piercing through a bank of dark clouds, illuminating the sky. A rainbow that extends for the full arc may challenge our phone/camera to capture it all.
Recently I have been blessed to see many examples of such beauty appearing on facebook. Friends who live in different parts of the world share views of their locations or vacations. We can live vicariously, imagine ourselves to be in Italy, or Machu Pichu, or Portugal. And as we gaze at the beautiful scene, even though it captures only a portion of what the natural eye can see, we can feel our blood pressure decreasing, we can breathe it in and relax. One such view caught my eye this week. It was of a pond in New England (do you know how long it was that I thought New England was a state?), surrounded by trees that were beginning to show the variety of reds, oranges and yellows of fall. And in the center of the calm pond swam two swans, elegant and serene. The view stayed with me, and I used it as the centerpiece of a ‘guided imagery’ session I used for some students who were about to take an important exam. Together we slowed down our breathing, sat in meditative contemplation, and I took them on a walk around the pond.
But it is not only Mother Nature who can provide us with scenes and views of which to be in awe. There are times when we have conversations with close friends, or observe an act of authentic love and devotion, or hear a beautifully rendered song, or smell a delicious dish prepared with love, or hold another in a sincere embrace, that we can feel awe. Every day provides such opportunities. At times in our cynical and tired world we forget to stop and feel awe. If you want to know what awe looks like, watch a child as they discover life’s surprises! Just observe them uncovering secrets, or unwrapping Christmas presents (I used to cry every year just watching my kids on Christmas morning – don’t tell them!). Remember when the simplest things could fill you with awe?
I have been in awe at funerals. Sometimes you find out more about a person when they are dead than you knew of them alive. Some people do not go around ‘blowing their own trumpet’, and so the vastness of their service to others is only revealed on that occasion. If you are lucky, and you lived your life to the fullest, your life story will also fill others with awe. Sometimes you will feel that awe, not in the bombast and high flowing rhetoric of a talented preacher, but in the silence and sincerity of a quiet room.
In the current ugly world of American politics, it is easy to lose sight of all that is good in our world. It is easy to be depressed and downhearted at the depths to which mankind can sink. It is easy to believe that everyone is capable of being craven and crass, and worse. But if you believe in the power of good over evil; if you believe that we can rise above; if you believe that the majority of people are good at heart, care for each other, live our lives basically doing the right thing, then we will overcome.
On this Fabulous Friday, please keep your eyes open for opportunities to stand rapt in awe: at the sight of a flower; a newborn baby; a sunrise; a person helping a stranger; the purity of a song or a perfect poem. Let us look for miracles, for signs that we are blessed to live in ‘A Wonderful World’ (ooooh, yeah! Sing it, Brother Louis Armstrong!).
Have a Wonderful Weekend, Family!