18 April 2012

The Discovery of Awe

He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead; his eyes are closed.
~ Albert Einstein

Y
 esterday,  I stood gazing up at the sky with about a thousand other people on the National Mall, waiting for a glimpse of the Discovery.  It was a perfect day ~ sun-drenched, temperatures in the low 70s, and a flirty breeze.  I walked around with my smarty-pants phone at the ready, talking to chatty strangers and an occasional co-worker.  We were all excited, wondering when and where the shuttle would appear, and whether we would be able to see it without binoculars.

And then someone shouted, “There it is!”  And we turned as one towards the Washington Monument and saw it ~ this giant 747 with Discovery riding on its back like a large bug.  It quickly disappeared behind the trees; some people started running towards the Smithsonian Hirshorn Museum to see if they could catch another glimpse; others looked a little confused and disappointed. What that it?  That’s as much as we’re going to see?

The Discovery shuttle flies over Washington, DC (C) 2012, M D'Eigh

The seers in the group [those with short wave radios, or WTOP playing on their phones] assured us that it was just flying over National Harbor and would be back.  To just be patient.  Wait for it. It would appear again.

And then there it was ~ flying over the Capitol rotunda, over the White House, and back around the Washington Monument and over the Hirshorn.  It made this circle three times.  And each time, I snapped blindly away, the sun was in my eyes.  As well as tears.  Because Discovery was saying goodbye. 

And I hate goodbyes.

But the tears were also because of awe.  Awe that we, mankind, had gazed at the stars for a long time, and dreamed of reaching them.  And then we did.  How amazing is that?!  We imagined what it would be like and then we did it.

Last Saturday, I attended a lecture co-hosted by The Saint Cecilia Group and the John Paul II Fellowship.  It was the first in a series of talks that explores the relationship between art and faith.

During Saturday’s lecture titled The Healing Power of Art: The Role of Art in Reaching the Wounded, Dr. Andre Leyva, the President of Montgomery Clinical Services in Gaithersburg, Maryland, mentioned that we have become immune to beauty, even blind to it.  We walk around with our heads bent over our smarty-pants phones, and never see the beauty that surrounds us. 

We are unmoved.

And thinking about the exhilarating rush of seeing the Discovery fly overhead, the tears stinging my eyes as its retirement brought to mind loved ones who were also growing older, I wondered. Is it really as bad as that?  Have the majority of us lost the ability to lost our breath at brilliant sunrise or sunset?  Do we no longer feel anything when a parade goes by?  Does the thought of a Puccini opera make our eyes glaze over?

Have we forgotten how to be in awe?

There is no doubt that a crisis is brewing.  Certainly, it is a challenge to reach a generation who has never known what is like to live without the constant hum of technology. 

But standing amidst that crowd of excited Discovery watchers, and seeing all the subsequent Facebook statuses and tweets about it, I have reason to hope.  Yes, we had our smarty-pants phones out, but it was because we were aware of being part of something historic.  Something amazing.  Something awe-inspiring.

Beauty is not dead yet, and neither is our sensitivity to her.

Oremus pro invicem,
~ Mikaela

Did you see Discovery with your own eyes yesterday?  How did it make you feel?  Do you think it is more difficult to be sensitive to beauty with all the technology we have?  Or does the technology put us more in touch with beauty?
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