What Really Would be Awesome


   I find it irksome when a waiter at a restaurant tells me that my food order is 'awesome.’ 

 I'd like to save the word 'awesome' for when someone actually does something truly noble and commendable. On such an occasion, I will bow with respect to exclaim: 'What you just did was truly awe-inspiring!'  

 Of a truly awe-inspiring nature recently was a friend's 60th birthday celebration. For example, her priority for the event was to set up what Yoga calls a 'puja' as the centerpiece of the party. On the puja there were pictures of the spiritual teachers of her tradition. My friend had turned a community hall in Burnaby into a sanctuary to celebrate her birthday!

 Any room anywhere makes a statement. This room made the statement:  'What I care about most is life's spiritual dimension and this particular spiritual tradition. This is what my life is about.'   

 To celebrate her sixtieth birthday, my friend had made all of the food herself.  To serve everyone on your birthday is the practice of this tradition. What therefore was 'really awesome' at this event was to behold the beautiful ‘ uja,' and to receive an 'awesome' meal that had been prepared with love.  

 Yet a third awe-inspiring dimension of the evening was that the party was non-alcoholic. Therefore nobody drank too much and nobody stayed up too late. Nobody behaved foolishly. Nobody experienced any depletion of energy. 

 Rather, our energies were restored and rejuvenated because of this grand party. Nobody 'got wasted,' having to recover for several days afterwards. 

 Everyone instead was uplifted and inspired by an evening characterized by a sense of reverence, along with lots of joy and laughter. 

 This awe-inspiring sixtieth birthday party was a lesson in 'how to party.'  

 Now in contrast to this 'really awesome' birthday celebration, was something that happened once in a cafe somewhere. Anthony Daniels tells the story taken from an essay entitled: The Empire of the Ugly, by Simon Leys: 

 "A radio was playing in the background, a mixture of banal and miscellaneous chatter and equally banal popular music."

  "No one in the cafe paid any attention to this stream of tepid drivel until suddenly, unexpectedly and inexplicably, the first bars of Mozart's clarinet quintet were played.”  

   "Mozart, took possession of our little space with a serene authority, transforming the cafe into an antechamber of Paradise."   

    "The other people in the cafe, who until then were chatting, playing cards, or reading the newspaper, were not deaf to the radio after all.

     "The music silenced them, they looked at each other, disconcerted." 

      "Their disarray lasted only a few seconds: to the relief of all, one of them stood up, changed the radio station and reestablished the flow of noise that was more familiar and comforting, which everyone could then properly ignore.” 

 Well, so much for Mozart and the possible creation of a 'paradise cafe!'

 Simon Leys, learned with dismay that day an "obvious fact," never to be forgotten. It was imprinted on his mind that these people, while recognizing the beauty that was presented to them, consciously chose ugliness in its place

 As Mr. Leys put it: "They recognized it only too well, with a flair as infallible as that of the subtlest aesthete, but only to pounce on it and smother it before it could take root in their universal empire of ugliness."  

 The cafe dwellers pounced on beauty and smothered it by the power of their own free will. Nobody forced them to go on living in an empire of ugliness. 

 It is is just as St. Paul said in Romans (1:18-25) that, we are all responsible for the choices we make.

 Our problem is never ignorance. It's rather a question of the will. We know full well what is right and wrong and what is good and bad. We know what we could be and what we are capable of, but continually act against what we know to be true. We act against conscience and against our higher natures.  

 We, says St. Paul, "suppress the truth" as a way of life, as a well practiced pattern of behaviour. 

 I can still see my Biblical studies Professor at Asbury Seminary, Robert A. Traina, demonstrating with his hands this message that, though human beings all know the truth, they hold it down. They suppress it. They keep it out of their awareness. They do not want to be aware. Their motto is 'Thou shalt not be aware.'  

 Nobody forces us to reject the good and the true. We choose to ignore it and to hold it down. 

 What can be known about ultimate reality, about God, is "plain to them," says St. Paul. There is no lack of evidence for those who want to know and understand. Evidence of the good, the true and the beautiful is abundantly evident. They have "clearly perceived it" but, regardless, prevent it from affecting them.

 They are therefore, says Paul "without excuse." And, because human beings "exchange truth for lies" they end up with "foolish hearts." They turn off Mozart and put on 'hip hop', or whatever. The result is, says St. Paul, "debased minds."

 It's an old truth that you become what you focus on and care about. The older you get the more you become what you are. We had all better be clear about the direction we're taking. 

 As Victor Frankl, who survived Auschwitz declared: "Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space, is our power to choose our response. In our response, lies our growth and our freedom."  

 What is 'really awesome' and a wonder to behold is a gathering where a spirit of reverence dominates.  In the case of the sixtieth birthday party, a choice had been made to revere truth and beauty. 

 It was not a birthday ‘bash,' but a celebration, full of dignity and honour. 

 We have the power to choose what we will be, no matter what our circumstances. 

 I am in awe of those who choose to use their power wisely.  I honour them with great respect, love and with all my heart.