|ILLUSTRATION: Katy Farina|
For example, in my lifetime the word awe in all of its manifestations, as well as other terms used to describe profound emotion, have been rendered virtually powerless by their misuse and overuse. The media—especially the entertainment media (which now apparently includes journalism)—seem afraid that if they don’t out-awe the competition, they just won’t get noticed.
Awe, awful and awesome...roll off people’s tongues like so many watermelon seeds at a July picnic.
And it’s rubbed off on everyone; just listen to how people talk. Awe, awful and awesome, not to mention ambitious words like disaster, horrific, unbelievable, extreme or mega-fill-in-the-blank, roll off people’s tongues like so many watermelon seeds at a July picnic.
CALL THE AWE POLICE
My children’s generation managed to attach awesome to everything from Nikes to Napster, rendering that word, in particular, powerless to describe much of anything that’s truly important. Come on now, if everything’s awesome, then nothing is.
So how do we describe something that really is rare and awesome—or unspeakably bad—when the words we once reserved for such occasions have gotten so threadbare?
I suppose we could try to restore those words to their long-lost potency. Under threat of arrest, we’d reserve them for describing—or should I say trying to describe—only things that really matter. Like an experience (good or bad) we can never fully understand, and which truly humbles us. Short of that, very, very little of what most of us are or do or see qualifies as either "awful" or "awesome."
Wouldn’t the truest, most articulate expression of an emotion this powerful be utter speechlessness?
THE ELOQUENCE OF SILENCE
"The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed." ~ ALBERT EINSTEIN