October 23, 2016

Awe Gone


The word “unbelievable” has lost all force. That's why the kiddies and their adult imitators invented the word awesome. -- Commentor BillH, 2014

Moments of real awe that overwhelm the soul are rare, but if you look closely at the miracle of creation in the macro or micro cosmos you can create such a moment almost at will. Real awe is front-loaded into the universe.

At the same time, those things of man that inspire awe diminish moment by moment under the unstoppable onslaught of the word "awesome." The descent of the word "awesome" from a valuable modifier when describing an experience to the status of a brain fart is a classic example of how our "educated" illiterates destroy literacy.

I've had a few moments in my life where genuine awe shook me to the roots of my soul. Holding my daughter in my arms a moment after she was born comes to mind as does a time when I was very young, lying a field and looking up at the sky and the high cirrus glowing burnt orange in the fading rays of day. There were others as well, gifts given and grace notes. Common to all were an intake of breath and a feeling as if your heart had been grazed by a thought of God and forgot, for that moment, to beat. Matched up against all the torrent and cascade of moments though, this genuine awe was rare; it was one of the pearls beyond price, the shining instant of "Ah ha, so that's what it's all about."

Not so today. Today awe is as common as clay. Today all things of man possesses the awe of someness. The movie is awesome. The SmartCar is awesome. The candy bar is awesome. The cheeseburger is awesome. Today it would seem that every slice of tripe spun out of the crap factories of pop culture is awesome even though one note of the 9th Symphony would crush the entire oeuvre of Arrowsmith. My morning latte was described by the barrista as "awesome" when, like all our cornucopia of crapulous things described as such, it was quite mediocre, thank you.

I'm not sure when "awesome" died, but it was sometime in the very late, not-so-great, 20th century. You'd think it would be mummified by now, but no. Whenever someone so forgets to drive their mouth responsibly that the word "awesome" emerges it carries with it the stench of that slaughterhouse where perfectly good words go to die.

In a time when moments of true awe are needed to slake the parched post-modern lost souls, the intense trivialization of awe by the neutered generation is awesome.

Posted by gerardvanderleun at October 23, 2016 12:12 PM
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"It is impossible to speak in such a way that you cannot be misunderstood." -- Karl Popper N.B.: Comments are moderated and may not appear immediately. Comments that exceed the obscenity or stupidity limits will be either edited or expunged.

"... is awesome" in its awfulness

Posted by: Howard Nelson at October 23, 2016 1:07 PM

I got through adolescence with groovy and hip. My six kids got through adolescence ('66 -80) with fab, cool, numero uno, out-o'-sight, radical, rad, and probably others I can't recall. I guess by now the youngsters have run out of new words and are having to make them up out of whole cloth.

Posted by: BillH at October 23, 2016 1:30 PM

There is a German word that has not been corrupted: the word 'ausgeseichnet'. It means the best, most highest compliment anything can have. The highest superlative. It's what awesome used to be. When I'm standing on a peak somewhere admiring God's majesty, that's the word I use. Not awesome. It's been sabotaged by the youth.

Posted by: SoCalMike at October 23, 2016 1:42 PM

Cutting loose from the 'cruit that collapsed my canopy was awesome.

But yeah, everything is awesome now a days and therefore nothing is. Most everything is still ordinary like it always was.

"Absolutely" is another word that is way over used.

One of these days I'm just gonna haul off and Chasmatic somebody for being retarded.

Posted by: ghostsniper at October 23, 2016 5:44 PM

I resurrected "groovy" some time back.Gives away my age.I also like "marvelous".

Posted by: Snakepit Kansas at October 24, 2016 4:35 AM

Why is it that if you have some awe, you are awesome, but if you are full of awe, you are awful?

Posted by: Hangtown Bob at October 24, 2016 7:10 AM

Your essay up to the part:

the shining instant of "Ah ha, so that's what it's all about."

Moved me.

Posted by: Jayne at October 24, 2016 7:40 AM

I received the double whammy recently. In a restaurant I asked the waiter if I may have a glass of water. He replied, "Awesome." When he returned with the requested water I said, "Thank you" and he replied, "No problem."

Posted by: Tom Hyland at October 24, 2016 9:18 PM

There was probably an awesome moment when, collectively, awesome replaced love for those people who had love for everything and everyone, except of course for those people they didn't love at all.

I am in awe of that lovely moment.

Posted by: watcher at October 25, 2016 1:05 AM