Richard Powers’s beautiful book The Overstory is a love letter to trees and the people who revere them. Reading the book, I was awestruck by the complexity of this previously invisible-to-me eco-system. Powers’s mesmerizing use of language inspired me to get out into the forest and soak in all that beauty. The book encapsulated all of the things that inspire awe for me: an author’s extraordinary talent, a book’s ability to take me to another place and time, and the mystery of the natural world.
We humans want to be blown away, astonished, and amazed. It’s why even usually unadventurous types jump into their car to watch a solar eclipse or pay uncomfortable sums of money to watch a performer who moves them to tears, or stop everything to watch Simone Biles vault her way to a gold medal.
We normally associate awe with grand, often expensive, plans. But most anyone can wake up early to watch the sunrise or stay up late to gaze at the stars. Identify what helps you feel wonderstruck, and see how you can make it part of your life.
The enemies of possibility are stagnation, boredom, and cynicism—qualities we might develop to avoid pain and disappointment. Inviting growth, adventure, and awe into our lives could easily go wrong – you might face a serious ego blow, waste resources, and feel foolish. It’s still so much better than the alternative.
Poet Mary Oliver asks us, “Listen—are you breathing just a little, and calling it a life?” Living well requires us to intentionally invite growth, adventure, and awe into our lives. It’s too easy, especially as we get older, to allow the status quo, “one foot in front of the other” melancholia to wear us down. Don’t wait for magic to fall into your lap – create it.
Peace and Love, Jim