On the experience of Awe


     To be awed, a dictionary tells me, is to be filled with reverential fear.
      I do have reverence for many things in the sense of respect with a sense of sacredness, but with no associated fear, though I do fear some things too.
      The word awe is also used in the modified sense of being highly impressed, breathtakingly inspired, and profoundly affected by something.
In this sense, I am awed by a hundred things. Some of these are:
      That the physical universe seems to have arisen from a symmetry-breaking in a primordial unified field.
      That the scattering of light in the atmosphere results in the blue of the sky and the gold of the setting sun.
      That an initial chemical reaction in remote antiquity triggered a biochemistry that has ultimately led to me as a conscious entity.
      That the energy from nuclear fusion in the core of the sun ten thousand years ago was splashed as radiation from its surface, a part of which reached our planet and was captured by the green of the earth; a part of which through complex and intractable routes is packed in the foods we eat.
      That a zillion complex chemical reactions are ceaselessly keeping countless creatures on earth functioning for various time-spans, after which they all turn to inert molecular matter.
      That the human brain imagines, thinks, creates, discovers, invents, and through these means makes possible science and religion, poetry and humor, and much, much more.
      That the finite human mind can contemplate infinity, mathematical and conceptual, and make utterances about the transcendental.
      That from the visions of an anthropomorphic divinity who spoke to select sages and prophets in the distant past have arisen the great religious traditions of humankind; that from these have emerged magnificent art and stupendous architecture, glorious music, inspiring poetry, as well as colorful feasts and festivals; and that they have also given rise to much love and hate, to enriching faith and hurtful intolerance, to compassion and cruelty, and more, all in the name of a God that no one really knows.
     That hope still lights up the human heart even in the midst of all the mess we see around .
      That during the fleeing spark of my own terrestrial existence I have been able to experience much joy and love, some understanding of and appreciation for many things noble and good and enlightening in human culture.
      The experience of awe in this sense fills me with respect, reverence, and gratitude for the Unfathomable Mystery that ignited all this.
      This awe instills a deep humility that enables me to recognize my own finiteness in knowledge, wisdom, and longevity.

November 3, 2014