It’s customary to link awe with shock these days.
“Shock & Awe!” Followed by that grimacing grin primates and dogs instinctively make when something that pleases them also uncovers a deep well of shame. The look we came to identify with W….
Shock & Awe would come to be the signature spell of the late stage of this weorld, a time/place/construct that only cares for destruction and feeding fears and hiding inside justifications for more killing.
But awe has other connotations, as we see in the phrase, Awe and Wonder.
We tend to think of this as a religious awe, the other as something profane. They are both religious. Even pre-religious. Awe being a gateway to all that fits into a Theosphere.
Awe, a feeling that comes over us, fills us, enthuses us – fills us with breath – is a check on our customary vision, on how we process what-is into what we see and what we do not see.
It is as direct as that. When our dissonance reaches a certain extremity denial turns into a refusal to see what can no longer be hidden, but long before this the divergence of how we see our world and our actions and determine their consequences began and settled onto a track leading us to this point where it could no longer remain invisible. So most of the time, for most people, what is there but unseen is more significant than what is noticed but repressed.
And, it is awe that draws our attention to what is conventionally unseen. Awe introduces us – not equivocally, directly, with the force of a collision, with impact – to what had been invisible.
There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.
Hamlet alludes to this. His father’s ghost is a messenger bringing him this insight. Bringing him to wonder.
The zealot has no use for wonder and only sees awe as a weapon, “Shock & Awe!”
Wonder has two flavors :
There is the wonder we associate with awe. In this sense it is a feeling that something is large, immense, and that it draws our attention and holds it. Time stops…. The rush of the day-to-day disappears from view. In Awe and Wonder we are held in this moment.
There is also the sense of wondering as questioning. In fact, wonder in this sense might hold what is meant here by questioning without all the connotations of quickly arriving at answers, solutions. In this sense wonder describes the opening of doubt – in a positive light – into our awareness from which an adjustment of our weorld can arise.
It can be said that our predilection for “Shock & Awe!™” is a last-ditch attempt to keep Awe and Wonder from infusing our spirits. The petulance, the violence-at-a-distance, via proxies, televised and “available on Facebook and Twitter;” are the signs of a thaumaturgy desperate to hold onto its captives.
What-is, the Universe, our Cosmos – however we want to label all that is beyond the edge of our capacities to perceive – is filled with Subtlety and Quality. We are aware of this, liminally, at and beyond the edge of perception. Wherever we choose to look, we see more and more astounding levels of complexity and hints at orders we cannot wholly fathom. This contact we have with Quality fills us with what it means to be alive. Its lack, death-dealing control, is impoverished. It is but ashes in the mouth by comparison. No wonder that in its thrall we chase after “wealth,” wishing to compensate for all we have lost in the bargain.
Awe and Wonder bring us back to this reset condition. In Awe and Wonder we stop and find our selves ready to begin again. Behind the patterns of ritualization that are so easily fossilized in religions that have lost their vitality – whether theist or atheist, ecclesiastic or civic – there is this return to Awe and Wonder as a way of providing – not “perspective” in a therapeutized sense – but a break, a space/time in which we generate our weorld anew.
We are immersed in culture. We cannot live without a culture. This becomes troublesome when the culture we inherit has become toxic via this mechanism of an inexorable separation between its norms and what is required to maintain life.
But how do we work at culture? How do we make a culture, adapt and adopt practices that fulfill our needs? How do we see what we need? How do we see?
How do we see?
These appear to be the realms that make up a culture. The organs that keep it alive. And what allows a culture to live, be vital, comes down to its contact with Quality via these realms of perception and action and practice.
These are aspects of a culture as an organism. They are interdependent as the organs of any living being. They cannot be separated without destroying the organism, and, in this case since we as individuals rely on the weorld of its auspices to maintain our own weorld, a time/place to be, to live, to exist within. We destroy our selves if we allow a toxic culture to take us down. Or, if we expect that fighting against a culture, seeking to destroy it – because we find it harmful, dangerous, deadly – will save us. We are mistaken. It is only through inhabiting a vital culture that we can maintain life.
Here is where my quarrel with Un-fill-in-the-blank rests. Any resistance maintains the authority and props-up the existence of this toxic culture. Such activity does nothing to fill the void.
This can only be accomplished by the direct, slow, painstaking/oblique, fast and joyful work/play within attending to these three realms.
Awe and Wonder.