As I begin this, I'm sick in bed. And I'm lonely enough to greet even this fly with joy.
The forecast---mostly the same for the next few days. (And, off and on for the rest of winter, which lasts until May. But all of you on the East Coast must forgive my narcissistic complaints. You're huddling under -30 temps and 5 feet of snow---so don't pity me for a second. )
But, despite the despair some of us surely feel, there is awe in all of this, too. We need awe desperately. A number of researchers have studied awe recently, and all reports verify something we've all experienced: Awe stops time and makes us better people. More specifically, events and moments that inspire awe increase our perception of our available time. Our schedules halt before a blood-red moon. As we lose ourselves in the march of an ant or the shooting of a star, we are humbled to our own true size and significance. Such moments reduce our irritability and increase our empathy for others. We are more likely to feel connected to others. We are more likely to help those in need.
(More here. )
I felt it this week, when I glanced up over my house, how my heart slowed enough to squish out of my chest and launch toward that moon! Then I brought my sons out of the house to see it with me.
Everywhere you can find this. Look outside your own window. And look here, at the calving of three miles of glacier---the largest calving ever filmed. Take a deep breath before you start:
And here, these insects at our feet we take no notice of except to kill. Here is how the early morning dew dresses them in jewels!
We need awe like we need oxygen, like we need God himself. Because it is awe that leads us to Him. It is awe that finally shakes us loose from our stranglehold on the clock, and our stranglehold on our own pitiable selves. We are indeed shrinking our already small selves with our narcissism and self-absorption. Our children measure alarmingly low levels of empathy and sky-high levels of self-focus.
We need them to see dragonflies, sun dogs, a blade of grass, volcanoes (see this incredible time-lapse of an eruption)
Our task--for them, for ourselves, for the sake of all the world---is to awaken to the world. The self will begin to find its proper place when we swivel our eyes to the window. Give your child--and yourself---a good camera, a microscope, binoculars. Start watching.
Here, from my window and my lens, glimpses from my own gallery of awe:
And if you have no camera---others do. A new online journal Behemoth (from the amazing people at Christianity Today) exists just for this, to bring us beauty and awe. It's cost? 1.99 a month.
Maybe start here: Behemoth's links to Wonder on the Web
By the time I finish writing this (the next day), the clouds have broken for a moment. I look from my bed and aim my camera to the waters out my window and see the ferry, struggling through massive seas.
And it is working already. I am wonderstruck. Time slows as I watch. And I am full of empathy for my fellow Kodiakans on board---15 hours of gut-wrenching seasickness. I say a prayer for them . . .
And I know it is true.
Awe is our true oxygen.
Breathe deeply. Open your eyes.
Gain the world.
Grow toward others.
Glimpse the God who loves it all.
(Stellar explosion photographed by the Hubble telescope)
And-----begin your own gallery of Awe.