In a Word . . .
. . . awe
“Too old for awe.” That’s what I told myself the other day. I had realised it has been a long, long time since I experienced any feeling of awe.
Yeah, there has been the “wow” factor.
That would probably best describe my reaction on entering the new Lexicon library in Dún Laoghaire that first time but especially when I heard local election candidates there, five years ago, were demanding a further €2 million to demolish it.
“Wow,” I thought then, believing it the stupidest thing I had ever heard in a political campaign, anywhere. Then that was before Trump and Boris.
Awe has long since left my life. Maybe it is a child/young person’s thing.
Awe would probably best describe my reaction that time I first met Santy Claus and he knew my mother by name.
“Howrya Teenie?” he said. (My mother’s name is Teresa but she is of . . . er . . . ‘limited’ stature and has been called Teenie since she was a child.) I was at once amazed, shocked, proud that Santy should know she was “Teenie”.
I have always had a high opinion of my mother but it reached unsurpassed heights that day.
There was my first time at University College Galway, as it was called then, and entering through the archway to the neo-Gothic quadrangle and that feeling of utter privilege to be in a place that resonated so of age, wisdom, and high, worthy accomplishment.
It felt similar my first time in the campus at Trinity College, feeling the presence of Hyde, Wilde, Burke, Swift, Goldsmith, Beckett, Synge, Stoker, all around and comingled as I, reverently, crossed those shining cobbles polished by the generations.
Probably the nearest to awe I have experienced in more recent years was on my first visit to St Peter’s Basilica in Rome. I was not expecting the scale, the inspiring grandeur, or how moving Michelangelo’s Pieta would be. Or the sheer wonder that he could have created something so emotionally powerful at the age of only 25.
It was good to realise then that my jaded sensibility was not past awe and that I could still feel that way. But it has not happened since.
Awe, originally meant ‘fear, terror, great reverence’ but today would be understood to indicate feelings of overwhelming wonder. From the Old English ege and Greek akhos for ‘pain, grief’.