I continue to be surprised and awestruck by life, by what I experience and am conscious of experiencing. My five senses take in the information of a world around me from the extremely tiny ant carrying a piece of cookie several times its weight to the magnificently large constellation I see in the night sky that appears as a single star to my eye. I hear the noises that are artificially created and those that are naturally a part of the world. I smell things both pleasant and obnoxious. My tongue tastes sweetness and the bitterness, salty and sour. My skin, the largest organ my body possesses feels subtle textures as well as the stone I step upon or the impact of a baseball hitting the palm of my hand protected by a baseball glove or the breeze or the chill of winter or the heat from fire.
All of this is simply data. My brain takes it all and makes sense of it. But on occasion something beyond the sense of the data occurs. I experience awe. I am overwhelmed by being. Being alive. Being aware. Being conscious. Being present. Being in context. Being in the moment. Being me surrounded by family and friends and challenges and joys.
Being moved by being aware of BEING is like having life fold over on top of itself. I wonder what makes me laugh or cry or feel compassion or frustration. How do these things occur? Perhaps science can explain these things—from the cellular activity and the anatomical event to the psychological explanation—but something seems to be happening beyond what science can explain or point to. Perhaps this is where some might say religion picks up the ball and runs to the end zone for a score, but I don’t think that gives it the attention it deserves. Perhaps science will be able to explain awe in a way that reaches beyond the chemistry and the cellular activity, but that will not reduce the mystery of it all.
Oddly, even as I am swept away at times by awe and the experience of seeing what is ordinary as extraordinary, as seeing the evident as mystery, I feel that beneath the awe and the wonder there is a voice that says “this is” as in there’s nothing unexpected to behold when one takes into account a Creator who is an Artist and Lover and full of Creativity and Joy.
The “Wow!” that I’m trying to describe is a glimpse of something that lies just beneath the grunge we focus on—like the layer of gunk on the table top of a greasy diner after years of elbows and food and all the other stuff that is never fully wiped off that builds up over the years. Most of us spend most of our time there, seeing the grunge. So when we’re suddenly given a glimpse beyond it we are caught off guard and we experience a spiritual moment. That which is glimpsed is there all the time, it exists beneath the grunge and gunk and as we let our senses take us deeper into the experience of life, deeper beyond what the eyes see and the ears hear and the nose smells and the tongue tastes and the skin feels.
How do you deal with the “Wow!”? This is a strange question since it seems that most of us don’t realize the doorway the “Wow” provides. Many of us--me included—will often take a picture or smile or maybe even cry when we experience the “Wow!”, but that’s as far as it goes. Yet, there is much more to the “Wow” than the moment. The challenge is that the “Wow” is powerful and requires so much of us. When we face it in it’s fullness, then we cannot walk away from it without an awareness of the sacred nature of life, at least we can’t without some act of terrible censorship on our heart and mind—an act of brainwashing that leaves us desensitized. What a sad loss of beauty such censorship causes, for in each heart and mind and eye and fingertip there is a potential poet, a anticipating artist, an engaged explorer, a seeking scientist who lives on the edge of wonder and delights in the swirling cosmos of which it is a part.
© Stephen Carl