Resolution: Awe


Seymour Alpenglow

I’m not one for New Year’s resolutions.  In fact, I can’t remember ever making one until now.  I’m not going to quit eating things my grandfather wouldn’t recognize as food. I’m not going to run a marathon. I’ve decided to have more awe.

I’ve spent a lot of time of late being underwhelmed (if that’s a word) with technology.  Then, I’m sitting at home one day chatting and playing (a form of) Scrabble with my friend who was on a train in Scotland. When I realized the complexity of what was going on, I thought about how incredible the whole thing was – even if the wifi connection was iffy at times. I was communicating with my friend 7000km around the world while she trundled through the countryside.

I saw a clip of Louis CK on Conan O’Brien.  He said something like, “Everything is so amazing right now, and nobody is happy.”  He ranted about someone on an airplane with wifi who said, “This is bullshit,” as soon as the connection went down.  He talked about how you’re sitting in an arm chair in the air, going hundreds of miles an hour and we’ve reduced the experience to these meaningless anecdotes we tell friends about how we were inconvenienced for an hour or two.  It’s not our birthright to fly.  We’re lucky to be able to travel several thousand kilometers in a couple hours without dying. If I fly to Toronto on Sunday morning and back on Tuesday morning, I should be amazed that it’s even possible. I just need to work on having awe when I’m dead tired.

Now, look at your phone. Ask yourself this: is it more powerful than your first computer? My phone is – and it’s just a tiny phone. In the now-extinct Louis CK clip, talking about someone fed up with their phone dropping the connection he said something like, “It has to go up into space and come back down – give it a second to do that.” I’m going to be more patient with things that need to go into space and back in 2009.

I can take pictures with my phone. Do you have any idea how absurd that statement would have been to me when I had a Motorola flip phone in 1993? I can fire these photos I take into space, and they end up on Flickr. There, I get to follow the lives of friends with the photos that they’re sending through space. It’s amazing. This has been technically feasible for a while now, and it’s just important to think about how amazing it is.

Twitter is the same sort of thing. We use it as a method of finding out what our friends are doing for New Year’s Eve or who is sick or meeting up with people close-by. But, when we get the fail whale, everyone tweets about how it sucks when it’s back up. Think about it: you’re able to broadcast (or narrowcast depending on your privacy settings) the minutiae of your life to an audience from a phone. You’re keeping in touch with five or five hundred. Friends and strangers. And, it’s free. Incredible.

But, wait! There’s more. On top of all this cool and amazing crap that I own that needs plugging in, I have clean water to drink, a roof over my head, enough food to eat, the right to vote, the freedom to express myself, and humans who care about me.

Bottom line: I need to appreciate all of these things more with a little more awe. Not awesome. Awe. Awe is a deep respect mixed with fear. The fear is going make me question more about the next big thing that comes along. And, I’m going to work on not saying, “This is bullshit,” and give it a minute if it momentarily goes down.

5 Responses to “Resolution: Awe”

  1. Andre says:

    Wow great post and I think yer on to something here. We take so much for granted now. Feels like 2008 was “the year of bullshit” and maybe having a deeper appreciation and a little awe can make 2009 a heck of a lot better. I’m joining you in the quest for awe.

  2. MK says:

    I saw that clip (before it was taken down) and it was really hilarious — and spot on.

    I fully support your resolution and will adopt it as well!

    On an interesting related note, Seth Godin blogged about how happiness is “destroyed”, worth a read:

    Happy new year!

  3. Erica says:

    Great resolution and train of thought, I wholeheartedly agree – I have been trying to do the same on my end, and I have to say it helps being around the kids since they see everything as awesome (in the truest sense). It’s hard to not be cranky when you’re always sleep deprived but I’m working on it too. Happy 2009!

  4. Greg says:

    Indeed: more awes, fewer sighs! And out with “bullshit” and “whatever” and jumping to worst-case-scenario conclusions immediately. I’m with you on this resolution, Joanna…

  5. Ed Dron says:

    Great post Joanna!