Seeking Wonder and Awe

Thailand Temple

A friend of ours just celebrated her birthday.  To begin the festivities, we all snagged a few drinks and a quick meal at a place called Roberto’s located in Pikes Place, followed by watching quite a few scenes from Fantasia and Fantasia 2000 accompanied by a live orchestral performance at Seattle Symphony!  I was very excited because I hadn’t seen the movie(s) before and I love listening to instrumental music.

While at Roberto’s, someone asked the birthday girl why she wanted to go to an orchestra on her special day.  I nodded in agreement with the question. No offense at all towards orchestras, it’s just her and her husband throw some pretty shnazzy parties and typically they are all the rage.  Her response floored me:

“I heard the other day that in life, we tend to prioritize and search for materialistic goods and have shied away from the search for wonder and awe.  And I thought about that.  And typically, live shows of dance or orchestra or plays typically give me chills.  And I wanted to watch something that gave me chills and make me feel wonder and awe.”

As I’ve said before, Danielle and I are different.  I don’t see the world the same way she does.  And I’m happy for this dichotomy!  It brings me joy because it allows us to glimpse a world perspective which diverges from our own.  My technique is brilliantly flawed. I to try to catalog [insert world view or item or person] and try to understand its functional purposes.  I see the world in plusses and minuses and while I’m performing arithmetic in my mind, I tend to miss some of the World’s glamor.  I like things symmetrical (and so, most modern art confounds me).  Danielle is different.  She’s that girl in Despicable Me shouting “it’s so fluffy!”  She’s the girl who can smell a flower for the 1000th time and still smile with pleasure.

The other day we were riding on a bus and passed up an area close to where I used to work.  I’d been there so many times I sort of lamented to Danielle how much I wanted to see something new.  She immediately suggested, “why don’t you imagine we’re in Thailand?”

I quickly shook my head.  I couldn’t do that.  I mean, I have a wonderful imagination and can build a world around me.  Fantasy and Sci Fi writers call it World Building.  When writing, you literally create everything in the world from the shape of the land, to the flow of the weather patterns, to the history of the inhabitants, and when and why birds migrate.  But to imagine a real place I’ve never been to before stumped me.  How could I do Thailand justice?  How could I not operate on only the stereotypical knowledge I currently possess?  Would I be able to encapsulate the majesty of its landscapes or capture the wrinkles of hard working smiles?  In that split second after she asked the question I knew any effort I gave would fall short.  I wanted something real to see, not just my wild imaginings.

“It didn’t occur to me until much later, how much life is already around me.”

So I harrumphed grumpily and tried to shut out the boring life around me as I coincidently looked out the window.  It didn’t occur to me until much later, how much life is already around me.

Three weeks ago on a hotter day we drove east with a few friends and had ourselves a marvelous time.  Danielle covered it with her last post. Mmmmm apples and cotlets.  I sat behind the driver seat and enjoyed watching the hills pass by. They looked like a deity was sporting a frosting piping bag and was icing the land with delicious, hilly frosting.  Mmmmm frosting.  Trees, orchards, hayfields, rivers, creeks, and buildings of every size and use coasted by my window at 65 mph.

And in several moments I pointed out their beauty.  I gushed over good views, organized farms, and particularly interesting trees.

But sadly, I’ve forgotten the rest of the beautiful details.  And my forgetfulness frets me. Did I ever look closely enough to spy if the trees were knotty?  Did I ever pay attention to see if the rivers slid by serenely or roiled upsettingly? Should I blame the sun for my squinting memory? Or worse, was I really ever in awe at all?

And so, in a time of my life where I struggle with forgetting the details and taking my surroundings for granted, a friend’s words plus Fantasia with a live orchestra came to the rescue!  It was almost a surreal experience. I zoned in and out at the same time (It was trippy!).  My thoughts explored the movie and the music even as I digested them for the first time.  Since I listen to instrumental music when I write, this music and situation helped me ponder my own writing.

Sometimes in life we spend more time pondering objects in the rearview mirror than we do what is in front of us.  My friend’s words echoed in my head and while Danielle and I watched the show, I felt transported to a place I haven’t been in a while.  Was it wonder in awe?  Nearly.  I’ll have to remind myself to search daily for W&A.  I need to smell more flowers.  I need to listen to more birds.  I need to be present.  Then, perhaps if I pay attention, I’ll be presented with a moment of wonderment.

1 Comment

  • Colleen says:

    Wonderful, Jake! Thanks for great story telling and reminding me that when I see things so beautiful they make me cry I am being a human being and revealing our true nature; to feel part of something bigger than ourselves and be in awe. It’s where deepest joy lives. We are made of star stuff and respond to it’s mysteries deeply. This I believe. And you are so right about our darling girl!!

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