Awe imbues people with a different sense of themselves, one that is smaller, more humble, and part of something larger. Our research finds that even brief experiences of awe, such as being amid beautiful tall trees, lead people to feel less narcissistic and entitled and more attuned to the common humanity people share with one another. In the great balancing act of our social lives, between the gratification of self interest and a concern for others, fleeting experiences of awe redefine the self in terms of the collective, and orient our actions towards the needs of those around us.
Paul Kiff and Dacher Keltner, ‘Why Do We Experience Awe?’
‘How can this be?’
After an Archangel appears in my living room, exactly how am I asking that question? (If at least I have found enough voice to ask it, and not backed away petrified into silence.) But am I expressing my amazement? Am I querying a scientific impossibility? Am I asking for the timetable?
So, where in this sentence do I need to put my focus today? What emphasis does my heart need to voice? Anne Dillard wrote, ‘I cannot cause light; the most I can do is try to put myself in the path of its beam.’ Alright, then: over to You. Where will the Light beam this instant? Where can I gaze? (What can I bear to look at?)
Mostly today I feel cowed. God may be arraying a smorgasbord of creative directions before my eyes, but as my vision darts from starting-point to starting-point, all I can hear myself say is “Yes, but…”, before moving onto another, better, easier, option.
I am overawed. The practicalities surrounding the changes that God is offering me, demanding of me, feel too much. It all feels impossible. I fear I am just not up to it, any of it.
In the light of these feelings, perhaps all the emphasis I need to select today is: ‘be’.
Even when you cannot see where you are going and no one answers when you call, this is not sufficient proof that you are alone. There is a divine presence that transcends all your ideas about it, along with all your language for calling it to your aid, which is not above using darkness as the wrecking ball that brings all your false gods down – but whether you decide to trust the witness of those who have gone before you, or you decide to do whatever it takes to become a witness yourself, here is the testimony of faith: darkness is not dark to God; the night is as bright as the day.
from Learning to walk in the Dark, p16
Barbara Brown Taylor
darkness is not dark I & II (2019). iPhone images