Perspective: Finding The Sublime In The Everyday

Aug 2, 2019

What causes awe? It’s felt in the presence of nature and incredible feats of human creation. To feel it daily requires wise humility and awareness. 


As the early 19th century poets and transcendentalists knew, perception of sublimity depends upon mortal limitations. But you must be aware of them to feel amazed by overwhelming power and beauty. Sometimes, the experience involves the thrill of danger. A loud storm observed from a safe place thrills with strong winds and thunder, and your adrenaline nourishes an aesthetic pleasure. In real danger, adrenaline from fear reacts to save your skin. Mortality enables these thrills, which can be spiritual experiences. God can’t feel them. 


Openness to the sublime from everyday experience takes practice. I deny myself this wisdom when I feel I’ve learned enough. In control, I ignore new challenges. A scientist friend said that a few years into his training he felt he was looking down from the stratosphere upon Earthly knowledge. He recognized myriad phenomena and grasped probable theories about many mysterious things. After a PhD and years of research, he turned away from Earth and saw a solar system, then galaxies, and a universe of undiscovered wonders. In short, he began to bask in the grandness of existence, and the more he learned, the more he saw how little he knew. 


Competence and confidence radiate with wisdom when they navigate with awe, allowing the windows of perception to open all the wider. 


I’m Bill Gahan and that’s my perspective.