A short reflection on amazement


I was trying to remember what piece of information I heard yesterday as I was being shown around a monastery in Korea. It took time to come back but I remembered saying at the time ‘amazing’.

We used to say ‘interesting’, then ‘very interesting’, then ‘amazing’, and now, at least in cool circles, or circles trying to be cool, ‘awesome’. An American waiter will routinely say ‘awesome’ when you give your order. This inflation has diminishing returns on the capital sum of experience. How quickly we forget or become bored with what we spend all our resources on praising to the heights. The value of the currency of language tumbles.

In the same way, marketing – whether of new devices, snack food or books – starts off at the astral level of praise. A book is acclaimed as the ‘definitive’ work on the topic for a decade – or ever. After twenty pages you see the signs of a few ideas being repeated according to the publisher’s orthodoxy of the rules for a best seller. (Maybe we ought to be allowed to rent books and claim our money back if duped in this way).

The truly amazing and awesome things – which make up the real interest of life – lie beneath this glittering surface of success and acclaim. If we cannot penetrate the mystery of failure and face the fear of repetition and boredom that accompany perseverance in anything, we condemn ourselves, to the underworld, which for us means constantly skimming the surface of reality.

It is time then, if we are awake, to reduce our expectations, our consumer craving and demands, so that we can start the journey below the surface. First we we will be sincerely interested and our attention is engaged. Then we commit and become very interested. Then we are amazed and eventually lost in awe, in wonder at what is emerging and enfolding us.


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