You know how you kids use the word “amazing,” like, all the time? Don’t. Witnessing your child’s birth is amazing. Your sandwich from Whole Foods is not “amazing.” Neither are the jeans Ashley just bought nor the top she wears with it.
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 possess 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.