This Listen Up! guest post is by Kyra Evans. Hugh Mackenzie will return next week.
Every Christmas since my daughter was two, we’ve taken her to the National Ballet performance of The Nutcracker. I like to pretend that it’s for her enjoyment, but truly, I get way more out of it than she does.
It doesn’t matter how many times I’ve seen it. The Waltz of the Snowflakes makes me weep uncontrollably. Every. Single. Time. Full-on ugly cry. The tears start rolling when the Snow Queen delicately makes her entrance onto the stage. Tiny paper snowflakes float from the ceiling. The music swells. Then the children’s choir starts singing and HEAVEN HELP ME. I’m instantly a mess.
My heart feels like it’s going to burst from my chest. It’s more beauty than my feeble human brain can comprehend.
This is the experience of awe.
We throw around the word “awesome” a lot. But true awe is more than just a synonym for “great”. Awe feels like your heart cracking open. It’s goosebumps. Tears. Butterflies in your stomach. It’s the expansive feeling of experiencing something bigger than yourself. A sacred and powerful emotion with a very specific purpose.
For me, watching the National Ballet dancers perform with such mastery, wearing costumes created by such visionary designers, in front of scenery so intricate, in time with gifted musicians playing an arrangement written CENTURIES ago, culminating in a once-in-a-lifetime, never to be experienced again moment, well…
It cracks my heart wide open.
It’s more than just a ballet for me. It’s an experience that adds meaning to my life. It reminds me that magic is real. That humans are capable of miracles. That my life has a purpose.
This is not hyperbole. Scientific data backs it up.
In 2007, a study involving 50 undergrad students and a T-Rex skeleton proved that the experience of awe causes us to understand that we are an integral part of a greater whole. Somehow, awe allows us to step away from our “me first”, individualist lens and instead see how we are but one thread woven into the infinite fabric of the universe. It’s a timely sentiment for a year in which tensions have run high and “us against them” mentality has reached a fever pitch.
Personally, I believe that awe is the intersection of the human and the divine; a portal to the purpose of our existence in this incarnation. Awe beckons us back to our true nature. Interestingly, it often does so by reminding us of the things we used to love as children. Awe calms the chaos of adult life—even if just for a moment.
And yet, we tend to think of “awesome” things as just “fun”, don’t we? As unnecessary or frivolous or mere luxury.
As it turns out, awe is not just “fun”. It’s critical to the well-being of any society, whether through music, dance, art, nature, sport, or science.
This year—this strange, mysterious year—was different in so many ways. The National Ballet cancelled their 20/21 season. My family couldn’t visit the Four Seasons Centre this Christmas. The virtual presentation just wasn’t the same. There’s something about the alchemy of live performance that just can’t be captured by cameras; perhaps the chemistry produced by so many souls gathering their physical bodies together, anchoring something so spiritual into a moment of time.
We have no way of knowing whether 2021 will allow us to gather again. The news changes daily; new strains and vaccination bottlenecks and terrifying line graphs.
But what is within our grasp is the experience of awe. Whether staring out at the night sky over a frozen lake, observing the microscopic intricacy of a snowflake, or being drawn into the immersive magnetism of a Really Great Book.
Whatever it is for you, in 2021, use awe as your compass.
Follow where it leads, and never doubt for a second its infinite power to connect you to who you truly are. Seek awe with the fervour of a life-saving medicine. Seek awe like air and water.
Though we may feel isolated or disconnected from each other, awe has the power to effortlessly weave our hearts back together again.
*This post was originally published on Instagram and has been modified for this medium.
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