It’s Okay if the Sky is Awful

October 29, 2017

It’s okay if the sky is awful. ​

Did you know that the words awesome and awful are directly related? “Awful” was around a lot earlier, going back almost a thousand years, and it meant something that was awe-inspiring. Full of awe. It could mean “worthy of, or commanding, profound respect or reverential fear”. It was not a far stretch, back then, to use it to mean “causing dread”. Sometime after it strayed into strong negative connotations, “awesome” came around, perhaps to replace it; and if now we say awesome the same way we’d say cool or great, still it used to mean “something that inspires awe”.

Sometimes awesome is awful. Consider: even now, one of the sentences under the dictionary definition of awful is “the awful majesty of alpine peaks”. Being filled with awe has never been supposed to be a pleasant experience.

It’s okay if the sky is awful.

Humans are dreamers, philosophers, romanticists. We have always looked up at the sky and seen mystery. We have always asked halting questions about the intangible. We have always tried to paint our emotions: in lofty words of poetry and novels, in the music of songs and orchestras, in sweeping splashed unrelated color.

Cogito, ergo sum. I think, therefore I am. Animals do something we can, perhaps, call thinking too. Certainly they feel emotion. They love, they hate, they grieve, they fear. They communicate with each other, warnings of nearby danger, and decisions about which way the pack goes now, and threats of what they’ll do to you if you come any nearer. You know what an animal never thinks? They never question their place in the world. They never question their existence.

Don’t listen to the naysayers who call your questioning angst, melodrama, delusion. Don’t associate with those who’d call moments of wonder and delight in the curve of the world romanticizing, sappy, sentimental. Because here’s the thing about magic: it’s everywhere, if you’re looking. Here’s the thing about stumbling, slanted poetry: it’s hard to express the inexpressible in words, and the greatest human epics came from poets who once learned to speak all over again, awkward piece by piece. Here’s the thing about the sky: it’s so much bigger than our lives, you can’t lose touch with reality by falling into it – the ones who have forgotten it are the ones living cloud-spun empty lives. Here’s the thing about being lost: you’re allowed to admit it.

I’m not telling you to give up your job and follow a dream. I’m not telling you to be one with the universe. I’m not telling you to find Your Purpose, right here, right now.  Such wide, meaningless statements. I’m saying, here’s the thing about humans: they know how small they are compared to the cosmos. Here’s the thing about us: ignoring the terror and wonder to bury ourselves in “cold hard reality” never really fixed anything. I’m saying, here’s the real thing:

It’s okay if the sky is awful.

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