Tuesday, February 20, 2007
The hidden cost of awe
The other night I went out and saw the Andromeda Galaxy for the very first time. Elation beamed through the binoculars, as a faint oval smudge appeared against a crystalline black eternity. But that smudge was a Galaxy! Outside, in the night sky, an “island universe” awaits, but inside, on the tube nightly, Anna Nicole Simpson.
When you see the universe in every drop of matter, you do it mostly alone. You also become acutely aware of how so many of the things we choose to cherish are utterly lame. It’s heartbreaking and beginning to take a toll.
I have this nagging suspicion that the world has forgotten how to be awed, or at least been distracted from what's truly awesome. I’ve been trying wake people up for the past 16 years, and am beginning to wonder if risking everything might have been a big mistake. It was a choice I made willingly, and for which I’ll be accountable, but I might be done.
Make no mistake, my feeling unfulfilled is not a shortcoming of nature or the scientific perspective, and I’m not dysfunctional in seeing it. If anything, my delusion has been in thinking that I could communicate the awe to ears that don’t want to hear it, and eyes that don’t want to see it.
I still want to just shake people and say don't you see this! But being awed by nature all the time also makes one care deeply. And therein is the hidden cost. The more one cares, the more deeply runs the hurt - especially in the face of so much wanton natural ignorance. It pains me greatly. So I’ve decided to try and temper my awed outlook, just to see where it takes me.
This will take some long nightime walks in the woods and across a frozen lake. I'll just have to remember not to look up (because that's usually when the awe comes).