Nothing is so fatiguing as the eternal hanging on of an uncompleted task. ~William James

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Oh, yeah, Sacred Awe

In her book Broken Open:  How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, Elizabeth Lesser attributes to Albert Einstein the statement that "the most appropriate response to life is Sacred Awe."  I have been unable to verify whether Einstein said this, exactly, though it seems to fit with other things he did say.  But reading these words recently had a strong impact on the way my life felt to me for several days afterward.  And I don't think it matters who uttered them.

For some reason--timing, need, or some other susceptibility--encountering those words at that moment opened my eyes.  Like putting on Avatar's 3-D glasses.   Things around me stood out, things I normally "know" but that blend into the backdrop of my tedious little melodrama.   And the obviousness of the majesty that surrounds me and includes me, and my everyday blindness, was beyond the V-8 head smack realization ("I could have had a V-8!").  More like "Oh, no!  I forgot to have children!"  But bigger.

I was stunned by my failure to notice the enormity, the complexity, and the beauty I inhabit. And my propensity to get lost in the grass of annoyance.   Even my very real sorrow and suffering can't hold a candle to this world, in which Avatar, with its visual splendor and compelling society, is just one of many visions.  How can any sunrise not command my attention?  How do I numb myself to the sense of astonishment called out in the presence of a small child's learning?  Or the perfect arrangement of my dog's fur?  Or all the moments in a stranger's life?  Or birdsong?  Or government?  This laptop. . . .

For those several days that followed this realization, my equilibrium was restored.  My priorities were shifted.  My perspective was new.  My heart was calmed and my spirit enlivened.  When I tried to communicate this understanding to others, I sounded like a simpleton.  Because it is simple.  

Maybe this is what Buddha meant by awakening.  But, in my experience, it is hard to stay awake.  Easy to slip back into the familiar absorption in to do lists and worrying, and all the other inappropriate responses to the universe we routinely make.  The awakened view remains for me as one of the many channels I can tune to.  It's "programming" is in HD, but the reception is iffy.  

But Sacred Awe is the appropriate context for this "recovery tale," and for all our stories.  It shouldn't be that hard to remember.  

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