One of my pet peeves is the misuse of the word awesome. I hear kids say that band was awesome. Women my age saying I found an awesome pink purse to match the magenta jacket I got. How was your vacation. Awesome, someone answers. Please, I am begging you, don’t throw that word around lightly. And the reason I implore is because I have seen awesome. My husband looks up into the heavens and says in a voice filled with wonder, do you realize that neutrinos can pass through the earth and never touch anything. His face is shining, his eyes are sparkling, his voice a whisper. The man is truly in awe. Neutrinos, he repeats, bump into nothing. They hit nothing. I don’t even have an intelligent question to ask.
I come up with, what would they be expected to hit or bump into? He says, well, like the nucleus of another atom or a molecule or . . . anything. Oh, I say, even though I have no interest whatsoever in neutrinos.
What I have an interest in is his awe. His genuine passion that brings him into this state of hyper appreciation. Wonderment. It doesn’t compare to the awe I feel at the first bite of Josh’s pulled pork sandwich or the thrill of the first ocean swim or making the boat just as they pull up the gangplank. Those are all great, terrific, fantastic but they are not awesome. I am not in awe.
Because I have seen awe and I want a taste of that innocence. That’s really what it is. To be thrilled over and over and still moved by something bigger than yourself. He looks up at the heavens and exclaims; I look down at my Caesar salad and dig in.
Maybe it’s why we seem to stay in balance so well. I at least get that he has something I want and he . . . well, he doesn’t judge that I don’t have it.
Nancy Slonim Aronie is the author of Writing from the Heart: Tapping the Power of Your Inner Voice (Hyperion/Little Brown) and teaches the Chilmark Writing Workshop. She is a commentator for NPR.