by Arnold De Villa
April 16, 2012
“Oh mygosh!” Preppy fingers click a phone in an intermittent salvo of text messages. The perky teenager, wide eyed and restless remarks on the victory of his football team.
“Really, that can’t be”, a trendier girl admires the lines and contours with the price tag of the latest fashion apparel on sale at her favorite boutique, all set for her forthcoming prom.
Meanwhile, from the cozy corner of a much expected time, quietly in tears, a father basks on the sight of a newborn child, huddled on his mother’s bosom; an ultimate gift of life, the fruit of a nine month long waiting.
As we go through the different phases of human existence, life lingers in livid shots of motley emotions, strolls through a wide spectrum of sentiments, and projects scenes from the dreariness of sorrow to beams of joy.
The Church was dark. Pews were filled with believers waiting for the service to start. Hymns welcomed the queue of clergy, laity, and future members of the parish as the Church gradually brightened with candle flames passed from one hand to another. Easter Vigil is one of the longest rites in the Catholic tradition. Perhaps, it may also be the same with other Christian Churches, those whose members believe in the mystery that Christ won against death, a dogma that escapes reason, the principle of faith that does not fit the fences of science.
Across the fibers of these different scenarios, an emotion of reverence and wonder marks the varied tones of human expression faced with events that echo a sense of inspiration, beauty, amazement or excitement. It could be that a young child is opening a simple birthday gift, a tourist mesmerized by the majesty of nature, a student who finally understands the equation of a mathematical problem, or a scientist unraveling the simplicity of a complex structure. In front of that event, any event perceived from their own specific perspective, the sense of reverence somewhat transports them to a more profound understanding of a given stimulus. The experience takes shape within a certain flow of an unexplained high: transitory yet refreshing, significant in its own unique condition.
For those who are filled with the daily stressors of survival, tormented by the anxiety of pending gloom, agonized by the many blows of a difficult life, sorrowful because of a recent loss, defiant because of an experienced injustice, or simply depressed due to a chronic bout of terrible and pesky failures that never leave, I am sure that palliatives have been tried, interventions have been attempted. From counselors, to shrinks, gurus to personal coaches, and from support groups to self-help books, we seek for that panacea against the pangs of our earthly life. We look for the prescription that could dry our tears, heal the wounds of our beaten spirit or restore sanity back to our ordinary lives. We search, we work, then we search again only to be back within the traps of the same dead end, until we quit. that it becomes a tragic end, the only end, and the cycle goes on.
Yet, without an actual need to believe, or even without the gift of faith, we may still have the ability to appreciate the basic things that are larger than life, enjoy events that are more interesting than our boredom, and submit to inspiration that can overwhelm our despair. As complicated as this may sound, when we are able to admire like a child, when we perceive through the angle of our innocence, and when we behold the so many things we seem to have forgotten, unexplained palliatives come in as interventions against our cumbersome human burdens. But we need to stand still, we need to fine tune against the subtle distractions that bog us down, we need to allow that rare occasion to grab us back, even for a moment to that point when we did nothing except stand in awe and enjoy without qualms the lost abundance.
When I get tired and exhausted from reading so many chapters of nursing books I need to review for a tiny quiz, I close the pages and walk away towards a lake near where we live. I go to the very end where I sit down in front of a setting sun. Joggers, bikers, walkers and toddlers block my line of sight and obstruct the flow of orange rays against my skin, but I look past them. I increase my attention to that blob of distant burning gases while my sight is transported to all the places where the same sun rays fill the same eyes as mine, some belonging to friends, some to loved ones, and some to those of total strangers. As these thoughts stream, a certain sense of awe engulfs me with the awareness of a natural perfection, the reality of the sun as created by even Someone larger than the universe. And then that awareness opens an even larger portal of awe, that there is heat and energy and life all over. I close my eyes. Flashes of childhood visit me when our family used to go to the beach without prior preparation. We simply enjoyed the day, the sea and the laughter of my siblings. Then a transitory elation stimulates the production of needed neurotransmitters that enlighten the cerebral pressures caused by scholastic demands
Being able to reflect without much ado is one of the greatest human assets that we still have. Being able to draw the attitude of awe from the ability to reflect is a tool that helps us realize the reality of greater things. The realization of these greater things overshadows the other things that pull us down. Those other things may seem so big: like the loss of a job, the loss of a loved one, failure in school, lack of finances, or a painful sense of loneliness. They are big and we would be quixotic not to pay attention to them. But most of them are distractors; they happen without us wanting them to happen. The more important things behind them are oftentimes those we do not focus on.
There is always a solution for every problem. The solution is a light. The problem is the shadow. We look at the shadow and we forget that there is light behind it. When a loved one dies, we grieve for his or her death. And we forget that there is so much in his or her life that we need to celebrate. When we get a failing grade, we instinctively focus on our “stupidity” forgetting about the so many smart moves we have been praised for and neglecting the invitation for a challenge to recover. When we lose our job we equate the job to our identity and we allow that mistaken identity to conquer us in our stupor. We forget that we are not what we do and we do should not tell us who we are.
“Awe…..is that so?”