That is awesomely shocking

That is awesomely shocking: Today, my dear bondhu and respected colleague visited my class. An internationally renowned researcher, winner of many awards, Professor Michael Hyde, wanted to collect data from my students. Data on the notion of "awe." I have spent many a spirited hour with Michael learning from him about the notion of "awe." Yet, every time I listen to him, I am inspired, and thus again I pondered. We have all had the moments of awe, but as I break it down I am tempted to ask, what are the sources of awe? For instance, some would claim that one is awed by a place. But, I wonder. When I have walked through the edifices of Manhattan, or taken a train through the rice fields of Bengal, or recently viewed the sunset on the Pacific - right off Highway 1 that runs from Los Angeles to San Francisco - I was impressed; I was amazed by the work of nature and how we have harnessed technology, but I was not awe struck, impressed, yes. Standing at Observatory Point in Darjeeling, when the majesty of the Kanchenjunga range of the Himalayas revealed itself as the mist lifted on a cold December morning, I was impressed. But the awe of the mountains was not in the mountains. That awe came when I was lying in bed with my loved one and saw the mountain range reflected in the mirror of the hotel room. Awe happens when you are in bed with the one you love and realize that even the shabby old Motel 6 room is awesome because of whose arms you are in. The suite in Las Vegas may be comfortable - but by yourself - as I have been many times in many hotels across the World - it has not been awesome. Who you are holding now can make it an awesome moment to you; just as the reality of who you are in bed with now could make it a shocking moment to others. Shock and awe mingle to create a duality that changes both experiences – of shock and awe. Two lovers holding hands and walking in the Mall is awesome to them, yet, that awesome walk could be a shocking moment when the secret is revealed. This duality is vital, sometimes what we call awesome can be simultaneously shocking. Walking into a museum of a concentration camp in the woods outside Gdansk, Poland was an experience that was shocking, to see what the conditions were like, while I was awed by the levels of human cruelty. Shock and awe. Watching the destruction of relationships, no matter where it happens, one may be shocked while being awed by discovering what one did not know. Much like anything else, it is a matter of perspective - what is awesome to one could be shocking to another. Thus, do the instances of awe have any privilege? Or should the same respect be reserved for the moments of shock? What matters is how we react. The kiss of the secret lovers is awesome to them but shocking when discovered by others. One could be shocked by what they see in another person, or one can be awed in the company of a person. But both requires someone. Someone you care about - who will be the fountainhead of either shock or awe. A person can go from being awesome to shocking as you learn more about the person. Nothing is intrinsically awesome or shocking, it is how we react to it - from the reaction of the lover taken to peaks of awesome ecstasy to the shocking awakening that one was merely a tool of the awesome lover. Awe, and the shock that follows. Thus we must choose carefully. Who or what is truly awesome? We should answer that wisely, lest we are later shocked. Simultaneously, we choose to be who we are - awe inspiring or shock inducing. Perhaps the moment when awe and shock converge is when one can say as the Fearless Soul said, "I am already enough/Everything I need is within me" To me that is the point of peace, after I have been awed and shocked enough, to finally say, I need no one and nothing to awe or shock me anymore: I am already enough. 


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