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“Awe, Wonder, and Sigur Ros” by Jonathan Divine

July 8, 2016

Eric spoke about exploring, using physical location as an example; but personally I experience exploration more in ideas and art. In fact, I know of few greater feelings than first experiencing a movie, or picture, or song, that so overwhelms as to leave me completely, utterly, in awe.

Recently, that happened to me. It doesn’t happen often – anymore – but while working one day, I realized I had never properly listened to Sigur Ros…which, in certain company, is a travesty.

For a lot of people whose taste and music I like, Sigur Ros are one of the bands – one of those  canonical acts who, even if you don’t like, you have to listen to. Hailing from Iceland in the late ‘90s, their strange blend of ethereal vocals, heavy guitars bowed like violins, and huge dynamics made them a very different version of “rock music.”

(if you’re curious, here’s their first song from their breakthrough album: click here.)

I’d listened to them a bit – a few songs on a few albums deemed essential – but that’s a very different thing than properly sitting down and taking a band in. So, while at work, I absentmindedly put on a Sigur Ros album whose very title lent it a kind of mystery: “( )”.

As far as I can remember, it was a very average, rainy day. But while working and listening to Sigur Ros’ nameless (and lyric-less) masterpiece, I found myself in one moment completely away from my desk, transported by the rain splashing the window and the sounds running through my headphones to someplace far, far away. Someplace cold, wet, and perhaps dark – but simultaneously vibrant, full, and powerful. I was, genuinely, in awe.

From a certain perspective, I glimpsed something of God while listening to that album.

That’s the power of awe and wonder – it reminds us that we are made in the image of something far beyond ourselves, something whose majesty and scope eclipses what we can even conceive. Wonder is, for me, the dull joy at comprehending how much larger everything is than you.

I’ve struggled sometimes with being a snob: usually a music snob, because I couldn’t afford to be a food, movie, or coffee snob.

But I’ve tried hard to reverse that trend in myself. I’ve wanted, as Community says, someone who “…likes liking things.” Or, to put it another way, I’ve tried to relate to people on the basis of shared likes rather than shared dislikes.

I think this is important, because “the snob” is an agent working against the force of wonder and awe in the world. The snob’s attitude is grounded in pride, and dismissal. By becoming self-appointed curators of excellence, they seek to control what yields awe.

Always be open to awe and wonder, in whatever form it presents itself. And always avoid seeking to control awe – the snob closes the world down, but the force of wonder opens it up.

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