Some Awe!

I was struck this week by the comparison of the size of an atom. If the proton at the centre of an atom were the size of an apple, the electron that is floating around it would be the size of sugar cube and be spinning in an orbit two kilometres away from the apple. The rest of the ‘sphere’ that makes up an atom is, as far as we know, empty space. The presenter I watched went onto emphasize that an atom is 99.99999999999999999% empty. A whole lot of nothing!

I read recently that our body is made up of about 100 trillion cells and each cell is made up of about 100 trillion atoms. That multiplies up to: 10,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 atoms (28 zeros there) or to make it easier, 10 Octillion atoms (thank-you Siri), in the average human body. But if this is true, then my body is also 99.99999999999999999% empty space. So why do most of us believe that the body and everything around it is solid? Perhaps there something filling the space that I think must be empty? Perhaps it is filled with energy, vibrations, dark matter? Perhaps solidity is an illusion, as is all of reality. Einstein said so, but he qualified it by saying that it was a persistent illusion. Thinking like this causes me to pause and think deeply and wonder.

Hubble Photo of the Cosmos

For me, this is a moment of Awe. I am struck by the wonder of it all. Where there is virtually nothing, I can sense a whole world. When quantum physicists got together with cosmologists, they discovered that the images they saw when looking into an electron microscope and looking through a powerful telescope were pretty much the same: a lot of empty space dotted by the tiniest of lights. This is incredible! This leaves me in a state of disbelief and yet at the same time, full of wonder at this truth. The British expression, ‘Gobsmacked’ fits here. It’s somewhere in between Homer Simpson’s ‘Doh!’ and Archimedes’ cry ‘Eureka!’ Yes, gobsmacked: the wonderment and astonishment of it all.

I watched a video last week on YouTube presented by Andrew Kirby. He’s a young chap from the UK I discovered last year when I was looking for information on Stoicism. In this video he said he believes being filled with a sense of awe can affect our lives even more powerfully than gratitude. When we are in a state of awe, we acknowledge that we are in the presence of something far, far greater than ourselves. We feel extremely small and insignificant relative to it. Perhaps you’re at the top of a cliff looking down at the waves crashing down below, sitting quietly inside a magnificent cathedral or gazing into the eyes of the Mona Lisa. And even though we sense how great this thing is and how infinitesimal we are, we still feel a deep connection to it.

Raphael’s School of Athens, Vatican City

When I was on the tour of the Vatican Museum years ago, we were escorted through room upon room of many of the great works of art: oils, sketches, frescoes, sculptures. There is so much art that great artworks lose their significance; it’s just one more Titian or another Michelangelo. I was following the crowds going at a fairly quick pace through gallery upon gallery when I turned. There before me was Raphael’s masterpiece, The School of Athens. Having studied art history as well as having studied the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, I knew the fresco. I had seen photos of it, heard about it’s significance to art, to the politics and to competing philosophies at the time. And there it was! I wasn’t expecting to see it. I didn’t know it was in the Vatican Palace. And suddenly, there it was in all of its eight by five metres renaissance splendor! I was filled with awe: a feeling of reverential respect mixed with wonder or fear (thank you Oxford Dictionary). And I was connected to the subject, to the artist, to the ideas expressed and to the moment, a moment that, obviously, has stayed with me ever since. I couldn’t say anything; I was gobsmacked!

Yes, we hear the word ‘awesome’ so often that most of its true meaning has been sucked out of it. It is still a good word to use in situations like this. When I am at the cliff edge staring down, I have a feeling that goes beyond being grateful to experience this moment. It’s a ‘be still and know’ kind of moment. It’s a ‘OMG’ kind of moment. It a ‘being completely in the now’ moment. It is a very humbling moment and a deeply spiritual moment.

Photo by Xiaoyu Chen on Pexels.com

We need more of these awe-some moments in our lives. We can seek those moments out. Find a place to live that inspires you. Visit the Grand Canyon, climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower, witness the miracle of birth, watch a flower unfold. Discover places and moments that fill you with awe in the truest sense of the word.

And what will this do for us? How does being full of awe help us? We connect. We step back. We relate. We are grateful. We are happy to have been a part of this experience that no video or still, no description nor writing and no telling could ever completely encompass; a moment that will impress feelings and emotions so deeply into our psyche that it can never be erased. We will have a sense that in some respects, although we are insignificant, and realizing that there may be more stars in the heavens than there are atoms in our bodies, we have communed with the divine.

Photo by Frans Van Heerden on Pexels.com

Find your awe!

One Day at a Time for 2,922 Days

Today is my eighth anniversary of living in recovery. I say this not in a self congratulatory manner. Rather its a reminder that I have enjoyed eight years of a life that is very different from what it would otherwise be. Coming into the rooms and making the decision to stay has been the most pivotal decision I have made in my life, ever. Had I stayed on the road I was on, I doubt that I would still be around to tell the tale.

Stopping, and staying stopped was part of the process. What that did was clear my head enough to begin applying the program of the Twelve Steps of Recovery. Up until that point in my life I had been trying many different ways of living. I knew that I was not doing a great job in my approach to life but I had not yet found one that suited me. In fact, I was doing such a poor job of living life that I put myself on a path which I could see was destroying me but I was powerless to change by myself. Alone, I could no longer stop.

I found what I needed in the rooms of recovery: a new approach to life, a program to apply that approach and the support to go through the process and maintain it. I had thought that as an adult I had to do everything by myself. I had thought that I should know how to live but I didn’t. I was just trying to cope with what was happening to me in life with the skills I had garnered, but my skill set was sorely lacking.

In my struggles to find and maintain recovery I learned that I am not alone in life. I learned that I don’t have to do ‘it’ all on my own. I learned what was in my control, and what wasn’t. I learned that I am connected in a way to a Consciousness that transcends what I can physically sense in the world.

Recovery isn’t the key to a life of easy and comfort. I have gone through some very difficult challenges in life in the last eight years but I have not had to stray off of my path in order to face those challenges. In fact, I was better equipped to go through them because I have a program and because I am not alone in this.

Recovery is a way of life. One or two months in a rehab centre is a good start, but it doesn’t guarantee life long sobriety. It requires a daily commitment. It requires maintenance. The result: recovery is the most important change that I have ever made in my life. I still have a long way to go. I still struggle some days with being me. Sometimes I don’t want to face life on life’s terms. Fear and worry, or anger and resentment still cloud my thoughts some days. Recovery is my way of dealing with these issues. And so while eight years may seem like a long time, I must still work my program and live the steps, one day at a time.

I am grateful.

Becoming a Seeker

I sometimes ask myself why I continue to read books or listen to audios with self-help and spiritual themes. One would think by this point in my life I would have it all figured out. A lot of other people do don’t they?

I can’t speak for everyone, I am quite sure that most folks are also struggling with the issues that life presents us. I don’t think I am much different expect that I claim my ignorance. I know there is a lot I don’t know and I am grateful that I have a sense of curiosity and a desire to seek answers. The more I learn, the more I realize how much more there is to learn. As far as living goes, I think we are just scratching the surface of what it means to be alive.

As I was growing up I was given answers by my family, by education and by religion, all of which were intricately wound into a perfect mechanism. Follow the commandments and the laws of the church and I would reap my reward in heaven. As I grew older and my own curiosity kicked in I found that I could no longer believe in everything I had been taught. Speculation, interpretation and rhetoric where the foundation of many of those ‘truths’. That amazing clockwork mechanisms began to lose a few springs and wheels. And so began my own journey to seek truth.

I sought out answers in religion, later philosophy and psychology and new age mysticism. Each has its own set of truths and while they don’t all agree with each other there is common ground. The Golden Rule: “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” is found in most. It’s an ethic of respect of others as well as of one’s self. I can live with this one. As well as the idea of Namaste: “I bow to the divine within you.” There are many generalities that I can live with. It’s when one goes into the specifics like an unbaptized child goes to ‘limbo’ or that there are nine classes of angels that my inquiring mind says, “What the …..?”

Part of my search for meaning in life begins and ends with the idea that today’s truth may not hold up tomorrow and that I had better be ready to let it go. Once we believed that the Earth was the flat centre of the universe, then the sun became the centre and now what? I guess the initiation point of the ‘Big Bang’ could be considered the centre of it all?

So I happily admit I don’t have all the answers. I must continue to Seek, to Ask, to Learn, to Share and to Apply. For me, this is what living is all about: S.A.L.S.A. adding the spice to life! And after this, I do it all over again. I believe that the answers aren’t as important as the questions I ask. The answer I got to what makes my life meaningful when I was 14 years old is a whole lot different to my answer today.  What is success for me yesterday may not be the same answer tomorrow depending upon what I learn today. I can look at life with a true sense of awe.

So yes, even at my age and I hope until I am no longer breathing, I will be a seeker. I will ask the questions. I will try new things. I will boldly go where I have not gone before because, well, it’s there.

Namaste