Lacking awe is disaster, having awe is reverence

This series of reflections begins with the post entitled ‘The World does not Need Saving’ (September 17ff).


Either one learns to perceive the world as being good and beautiful, or one takes the world to be ugly and unjust. The first is the contemplative path, one that requires a lifetime of philosophizing in order to coalesce into the many things. The second is the modern path whose starting point is that how things are is not how they ought to be, whose rallying cry is ‘changemaking’ and ‘social change,’ and whose terminus is disaster. The contemplative view is reverent; the muddled view is complaining; the modern view is disastrously heroic.

Re-read the opening stanzas from Daodejing 72:

When men lack a sense of awe, there will be disaster.

Do not intrude in their homes.
Do not harass them at work.
If you do not interfere, they will not weary of you.

Having a sense of awe means that the world as such is sacred. Thus, it cannot be changed, and it cannot be saved. When one lacks a sense of awe, one intrudes, breaking into and breaking apart the lives of others. As an intruding neighbor, one is a busybody. As an intruding development organization, one supplies locals with computers. As a utilitarian bureaucrat, one starts ‘tallying up’ happiness.

Return to the sense of awe, and you will only approach the other when he has invited you over. You will not intrude or harass or intervene but welcome and inquire. This means: letting go of that and perceiving this. This means: honoring all of existence.