Saturday, March 1, 2008

Reclaiming Awe

One of the many cesspools we'll have to clean up post-Bushco is our language. There are words I find myself avoiding because they have been so tainted with lies and evil that their original meaning has been mutilated. A project like that doesn't rate as high on the priority list as things like ending the war in Iraq, stopping the use of torture, addressing climate change, fixing the economy, and joining with the people of the gulf coast to restore their home. But it is something I hope we can do along the way.

For me, a word that is seriously in need of restoration is "awe." I just hate the fact that every time I hear that word these days, I think of the destruction and death "shock and awe" caused in Iraq. Its such a beautiful word and it was used in the most vile way imaginable. So, my hope is that we will not only end our perpetuation of violence in that country and at least TRY to find a way to make amends for what we have done, but that we will also recognize that our leaders took a concept that should inspire peace and bastardized it as a tool for war.

One of my favorite pieces of literature is Jane Wagner's play "The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe" that was written for and performed by Lily Tomlin. The premise of the play is that Lily is a bag lady that channels aliens from outer space who are here to explore humanity. These aliens are curious about the concept of "goose bumps" so Lily's character takes them to a play because that's a place she has experienced goose bumps in the past.

On the way to the play, we stopped to look at the stars.
And as usual,
I felt in awe.
And then I felt even deeper in awe at this capacity we have to be
in awe about something.

Then I became even more awestruck
at the thought that I was,
in some small way,
a part of that which I was in awe about.

And this feeling went on
and on
and on...
My space chums got a word for it:
"awe infinitum."

I decided I would set time aside each day to do awe-robics.

To be in awe for me seems to encompass both our magnificence and our humility all at the same time. We are insignificant specks on the one hand. And yet we are a part of a universe that is beautiful and bold beyond our imagination. I think that second part is what we often feel, but fail to articulate. As Lily's character says, "Then I became even more awestruck at the thought that I was, in some small way, a part of that which I was in awe about."

Here are just a few of the things that inspire awe in me. And remember, we are part of all of this.


They will kill me but they will not kill my voice, because it will be the voice of all Afghan women. You can cut the flower, but you cannot stop the coming of spring.
Malalai Joya

Students in Waller County, Texas marching two weeks ago to end their disenfranchisement.

My grandniece Bella's first halloween

My niece Dani

But of course, I am also awe-struck by music. The problem is that there are so many songs that inspire goosebumps, depending on the mood I'm in. But here's one that does it for me, no matter the day, time or situation.


  1. I absolutely adore that phrase about awe in Lily's play. I even copied it into a journal long ago. Nice photo's.

    Brother Don
    (has a nice ring to it, don't ya think)

  2. Morning Brother Don. And I should acknowledge that you are the one responsible for that last picture of Dani. It still amazes me!! I am in awe of both your talents.


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