Saturday, August 02, 2008

Millennial Awe

Where do we find wonder these days, anyway?

I went to Symphony on the Prairie again last night. The music was "meh" -- but that was largely due to song choice. The program was Pure Beethoven this week, but it didn't include any Beethoven classics: no "Dun-dun-dun-DUUUUUN! Dun-dun-dun-DUUUUUN!" or anything comparable. But because I was not distracted by the music, I experienced the evening in a different way -- fading in and out of shallow sleep on a picnic blanket on the hill.

When the sun finally went down, I watched the stars come out, and for the longest time, I could only see one star. I had been wearing my nonprescription sunglasses (don't tell the BMV!) at the beginning of the concert, but had removed them, so I was left with my natural binocular vision (right eye near-sighted, left eye far-sighted, which, my Costco optometrist assures me, will serve me in good stead in 30 years) and all of a sudden I could do weird things with the single star I was watching, just by concentrating on focusing my eyes differently. I could make it move around, and make two of it appear and then make the two move away from each other either directly opposite from one another or on a perpendicular vector. I think I figured out the secret to doing stereograms, which I could never do before ... and I think the secret is I have to be on my back.

Anyway, what I slowly realized was that while I had been focusing on that one star (right eye, left eye, both eyes, left eye mostly with a little right eye...), the sun kept going down and other stars had become visible. I wondered how many people were pondering any of the stars above us, let alone the vast multitude I was witnessing at that moment. If not for my random choice to lay on my back instead of sitting up, I'd have totally missed it.

And I wondered where we make room for AWE in the Internet Era. What blows our mind the way an eclipse would have, even four hundred years ago? What inspires a sense of "No. Effing. Way." the way the friends of the first caveman caveperson to harness fire would have responded? What challenges us to identify our place in creation while also giving us hope for something bigger, letting us experience wonder like the folks who witnessed the Aurora Borealis before we understood what caused it?

This afternoon, I completed my Very. Hectic. Slothing Agenda:
  1. Sleeping until 10:30,
  2. Eating leftover improvised Harry & David Molten Chocoberry Volcano Muffins -- whose recipe I may or may not publish at a later date,
  3. Reading Chuck Palahniuk's lame novella "Snuff,"
  4. Reading a spoiler synopsis of The Dark Knight,
  5. Watching the first five episodes of Stephen King's new web-based graphic novel series, "N."

Then I spent another half hour on the back porch listening to my iPod and just watched the pond lake loch. I met a new turtle I hadn't met before (quite a fast swimmer, that one, whom I shall name Flash, pronounced "Flaysh" like Roscoe P. Coltrane's dog on The Dukes of Hazzard), and I watched the sun sparkle on the water's surface in a way that was reminiscent of the stars' dance last night. And, again, I was overwhelmed with the notion that there's all this beauty around me that I don't even realize.

Which moved me from wondering where we make room for awe in the Internet Era to wondering what I can actively do from now on to appreciate the beauty of Nature, the Universe, Creation, Whatever You Want To Call It.

Ideas? Suggestions? Swift kicks to the head? I will also accept comments and analyses regarding the fact that all my examples have something to do with light: stars, eclipse, fire, northern lights, sun bouncing off the water...


Meana said...

I just got back from a long walk with Sam (we've got several parks connected by trails) and saw the typical "staged" beauty of well-landscaped flower beds and fountains. And while those were very pretty, I was awed by the simpler things: the wildflowers along the edges of the park, clearly not planted, nor manicured, and the view of the entire park with the dew literally sparkling in the morning sunlight. I can't really describe how that looked, but it was spectacular!

My suggestion: a city park, early, before the activity of the day disrupts the serenity.

Oh, p.s. that cloud behind us at sunset while we were at symphony on the prairie was cool too!

Sandi said...

My grandmother (Little) spent her whole life not painting things that were pretty, but things like oil cans, run-down barns, rock quarrys. When I asked her why she did not paint flowers and rivers and mountains, she responded, "Oh honey, I don't paint things that other people already think are beautiful. I paint the things people pass by and show them the beauty in those." I love her, and you, my beautiful friend.