Never wade through the pretty ripples
of perpetually flowing
rivers, until you have looked at their lovely waters,
and prayed to them,
and washed your hands in the pale enchanting water.
~ Hesiod, Hesiod: The Works and Days/Theogony/The Shield of Herakles
Reverence is defined as a feeling of deep respect or awe, a profound love, a recognition of something bigger then ourselves. Reverence is wonder, magical moments, and a sense that there is more to life than what we perceive with our senses although you don’t need more than your senses to experience reverence.
Reverence is often associated with religion, but it is not a purely religious feeling. Reverence is also associated with humility in the sense that we are humbled in those moments of awe and wonder, when we feel small in comparison to, say, the millions of stars in the night sky or the flashing of thousands of fireflies in a summer meadow or a stunning sunrise or a piece of music that makes our souls soar in ecstasy.
I honestly think in order to be a writer, you have to learn to be reverent. If not, why are you writing? Why are you here? Let’s think of reverence as awe, as presence in and openness to the world. The alternative is that we stultify, we shut down. Think of those times when you’ve read prose or poetry that is presented in such a way that you have a fleeting sense of being startled by beauty or insight, by a glimpse into someone’s soul. All of a sudden everything seems to fit together or at least to have some meaning for a moment. This is our goal as writers, I think; to help others have this sense of — please forgive me — wonder, of seeing things anew, things that can catch us off guard, that break in on our small, bordered worlds.
~ Anne Lamott, Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life
When I pick a word or theme for the year — or when it picks me — I sometimes have more than one. One is public, such as my word for this year: curiosity. The other is usually private, one I hold close and work with quietly. I’m not sure when that first happened, and it isn’t something that happens every year. Last year, for instance, was a one-word year until it became a no-word year when I gave up and let the word (Playful) do as it would.
You know how, when you learn a new word, it suddenly shows up every where? Or how, when you become aware of something that is new to you — a bird song, a flower, a type of cloud — that awareness makes you realize that it was something you saw or heard every day, maybe several times a day, but you didn’t notice? And then you wonder how it was you didn’t know it or notice it?
The word reverence keeps cropping up for me lately. It’s not a new word for me, of course, but it is a word that has flown under the radar for a long time. I’m not sure it’s a word I’ve ever used in the course of writing or speaking or even thinking. Maybe because it was a word I associated with religion. When I gave up religion, I gave up some of its words as well, not realizing that so many of them are not religious words but are words religions appropriated as their own and many of us continue to see them that way even though the words had or have meanings not associated with any dogma, sect, creed, or denomination.
I think the words Curiosity and Reverence will work well together. When I feel reverent about something, I often experience curiosity and a willingness to learn more, and curiosity often leads to reverence.
The ninth gift is Reverence. May you appreciate the wonder that you are and the miracle of all creation.
~ Charlene Costanzo, The Twelve Gifts of Birth