Do Haeng Michael Kitchen

Writer. Attorney. Detroit City FC Til I Die.

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.


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