The tiny is the last refuge of the tremendous.–Richard Howard*
When did we begin to lose the sense of awe? Was it the point at which science seemed ready to explain so much of what had been hidden from us for so long? Was it when the light of our cities at night began to block our view of the stars and the heavens? Was it when our connection and communication with one another thickened and became nearly constant, almost without pause?
The word “awe” itself seems ready to vanish. Now it exists largely within the adjective that has usurped and debased it; an adjective that loses its original meaning as it devolves into another nearly meaningless synonym for approval.
We seldom think about the infinitude of the night skies that we can no longer see. Distracted by our communication with others, we forget how small is the place that we all live, a speck floating in an immensity of space, permanently separated from the other life that must exist in the universe. We have time only for the trivial, and our attention is broken into a myriad tiny slivers.
We may yet regain awe, by contemplating the infinitesimal, at the other end of the scale from the immense that we have cast aside. The tiny compels our attention even more than the vast; while that which is huge strikes the consciousness immediately, the very small requires time and concentration to comprehend once we become aware that it exists.
In the quiet examination of what is minuscule, through the eye and mind and mind’s eye, awe steals back into the soul. We feel a sudden thrill of wonder and fear as we realize that Infinite and Infinitesimal are not opposite ends of a linear scale, but are connected in a circle of unimaginable dimensions.