It’s Okay if the Sky is Awful
Outside the Reviews / October 29, 2017

It’s okay if the sky is awful. ‚Äč 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…