In Oliver Burkeman’s book, The Antidote: Happiness for People Who Can’t Stand Positive Thinking, I resonated with a statement he feels is the best description of a true happiness that is worthy of experiencing.
Paul Pearsall writes “Awe is like trying to assemble a complex jigsaw puzzle with pieces missing. There’s never any closure in an awe-inspired life. We’re never allowed to know when this fantastic voyage might end…but that’s part of the life-disorienting chaos that makes this choice so thrillingly difficult.” (Burkeman, pg 211, quoting Pearsall in Awe: The Delights and Dangers of Our Eleventh Emotion (Deerfield Beach Florida: Health Communications, 2007).
Ponder that for a moment.
Awe leaves nothing out. It is happiness, joy, love, anger, sorrow, fear, amazement, boredom, achievement, failure, all wrapped into one experience – life. Embracing only the “positive” emotions and thoughts – as those preached by the cult of optimism – actually limits one’s experience of an awesome life. But it is a deeper, difficult, and authentic experience compared to the superficial “grinning insistence of optimism at all costs, or the demand that success be guaranteed.” (Burkeman, pg. 211).
There is no “30-day plan” to happiness or success. Now matters; not what might happen a month from now. And it’s the realization and acceptance that some experiences and situations cannot be explained. It is okay to rest in uncertainty.
Awe, to me, is a balance of these positive and negative emotions. It is not wearing rose-colored contact lenses trained on the future, nor being a prophet of doom based on the events and writings of the past. The awe-inspired life happens right now. Because that’s all we really have.