Everyone knows – or ought to by now – that exercise is good for both body and brain, but these days I think awe-robics is as important as aerobics. The term was coined for Trudy, the bag lady character in the play The Search for Signs of Intelligent Life in the Universe that Jane Wagner wrote for Lily Tomlin to perform in the mid-1980s.
Trudy long ago distanced herself from reality, which she calls “Nothin’ but a collective hunch,” because it was “too needful.” I ask you, who hasn’t felt that? Reality is always there with expectations of us! So she let her mind crack like a piñata and found that there’s “a lot of surprises inside.”
One night as Trudy stops to look at the stars, she says, “I felt in awe. And then I felt even deeper in awe at this capacity we have to be in awe about something. Then I became even more awestruck at the thought that I was, in some small way, a part of that which I was in awe about.”
After she marvels for a while on the mystery of that, she says, “I decided I would set time aside each day to do awe-robics.”
I bring this up for two reasons. First, it’s a great time of year to be in awe of the universe in the northern hemisphere, because shooting stars are about to provide nightly entertainment. The Perseid meteor showers are at their peak every August 9 – 13 (but extend from late July to late August). Named after the constellation Perseus, they are actually the dross of the Swift-Tuttle comet. Each year as Earth passes closest to the comet’s orbit, the sky comes alive with the streaks of light known as shooting stars. On a good night you may see as many as 50 or 60 per hour or more. Just stretch out on a comfy chaise lounge under a country sky (away from city lights), preferably after midnight, and preferably on a moonless night. You don’t need a telescope, because a good view of a wide stretch of sky gives you the best chance of seeing them. Patiently scanning a broad swath is your best bet.
Reason 2: Awe-robics is really about paying attention to what’s mysterious and marvelous about our world. It’s a great antidote to the nightly news. And it doesn’t have to be as unfathomable as the stars. I am personally in awe of hot and cold running water on a daily basis.