How To Even…Experience Awe in the Mundane

By Michael Gushue & CL Bledsoe

Pop quiz: what instincts are people born with? There’s some debate about this, but it’s agreed that there are only a few, not like those cool birds with their migrating and their nest building. Lucky. One is the way we react to pretty things, the ooooh face. This is the reaction to awe. We even say that a lot of the time, “Awwww.”

See, there’s a certain feeling that comes with awe. Awe seems to be good for you. There are a bunch of theories about this — which just means nobody really knows — but it seems to have something to do with focusing our attention away from ourselves for five seconds, which, let’s be honest, is quite an accomplishment.

There is a kind of philosophical feeling that is so profound, for whatever reason, that it distracts the brain, momentarily. Various philosophies or religions have different names for it. One of the more common is the koan, which is a kind of riddle meant to help lead to enlightenment. In art, there is surrealism, which helps lead to wearing lobsters as a fashion accessory. The point is, these things take us out of ourselves for a moment and help us forget about how awful everything around us is. But there are also simpler things that don’t necessarily involve paying a fee to be able to see. Let’s explore a mix of ways to potentially experience awe, and thereby stop focusing on ourselves, shall we?

Big-Ass Stuff

Ever look into the Grand Canyon? If you did, you probably peed yourself, and there’s no shame in that. It’s why we briefly ran an adult diaper dispensary there, until “the Man” made us “stop trespassing and harassing people.” What about looking down from the Empire State Building? The same thing can be accomplished by looking up, though you don’t have the vertigo quite as much in that scenario and, you know, bankers might fall on you.

The thing about big-ass stuff is it’s big, and you’re small. How did they build something like that, if it’s a built thing? White people couldn’t do it, they’re too busy complaining about how they don’t own everything yet, so it must’ve been aliens. Which means, you know, three-boobed aliens probably exist somewhere. (If you can dream it, you can build it.) If it’s not a built thing, that means nature did it, and nature is the original three-boobed alien. What we’re saying is you’ll probably be too distracted with all your stupid head words to think about all your stupid head feelings. At least for a minute. YOU’RE WELCOME.

Trash Dancing in the Wind

The most awe-inspiring thing about this is that someone (perhaps a teenager with an abusive dad and a video camera, who lives next to an awkward but attractive girl he wants to impress. But who knows? Could be anybody.) thinks it’s profound. But they do, though. Some people even think that movie wasn’t a steaming pile of classist, misogynist, predator-excusing garbage dancing in the cultural winds. Is that realization a thing of beauty? No. No, it is not. It’s just exasperating and puzzling. And the star of that ended up being outed as a predator? Go fig! But still, while you were typing your nasty responses to us, you forgot the fact that you will die alone probably fairly soon, so there you go. This one was a twofer.

So Stupid They’re Profound

You know that feeling you get when someone says something so stupid you can’t even comprehend it for a second? It’s like your brain winces. You try to follow the tortured logic but you just can’t. This is what makes it so hard to argue with something like that — you kind of have to go back to first truths and explain fundamental laws of physics to the person to be able to even get to the point of demonstrating how wrong they are, and who has that kind of time?

But look — did you think about your ongoing anxiety while you were trying to suss out that inanity? No, you did not. Sure, NOW you are. Now that the person has wandered off into traffic, or been elected to the highest office in the land, you’re full of anxiety about the future of humanity, as well you should be. Pretty good chance that person has bred and passed their genes on into the future. But for that blissful moment, you were so distracted by how profoundly stupid this person must be, you forgot to be anxious.

But wait, you may be asking, for this to really work, I’d have to be surrounded by stupid people — profoundly stupid people, like all the time. Well, maybe it’s time you started paying more attention to politics. Check out some conspiracy theories on YouTube. Flat Earth. The Flood. Reptilians. Flat, Watery Reptilians. There’s a smorgasbord of stupidity out there. Did you know that they think roundish mountains are petrified giant trees? The Grand Canyon was created when the Sky God took a mighty whizz? Actually that one sounds pretty good. If checking out conspiracy theories on Reddit or YouTube is too much work (or too depressing, in itself, which is a possibility), you could start your own. If gravity is real, how does water float in the sky? Or why doesn’t all the water in the world drip off the south pole? Is an alien bedpan involved? If so, WHAT DO THE ALIENS WANT?! BOOM. Goodbye anxiety.


There’s a great ongoing gag in the movie I Heart Huckabees in which the two main characters, Markety Mark and Jason Schwartzman, are trying to attain enlightenment. They have the most luck by hitting themselves in the face with a big medicine ball. For a moment, after the impact, their minds are clear of all thoughts. Unfortunately, the thoughts come back, and with them, feelings, and all the ickiness that entails. So they have to keep hitting themselves every few seconds. The problem is that the impact only triggers a momentary rush of endorphins. We need something more profound to truly drive away the ickiness of consciousness. That’s where drugs come in. Now, we assume most of our readers are high, so you realize that pot doesn’t actually take away thinking. It causes more thinking, but it’s stupid thinking about stupid shit, so that works, but only momentarily. It’s still going to lead to ickiness later. That’s why you need a more powerful drug, one that will take away all thought forever. Heroin seems to be a good bet, but it does eventually wear off. So, you’re going to need to take a whole lot of it so it lasts long enough. You may want to experiment with more powerful versions like krokodile, which we haven’t tried but have read interesting things about. Of course, all of this is going to get expensive, and it will definitely destroy your life. So, maybe don’t do that after all. Sorry.

Anxiety, Itself

But we’ve been dancing around the biggest-ass, stupidest thing that exists, this whole time. No, we don’t mean the president. There’s nothing bigger and dumber than our own anxiety. Really. It’s kind of marvelous, if you think about it. Maybe you think you’ve been thinking about, but all this time, you’ve been feeling it. And feeding it. But not fooling it (we’ll stop now).

Think about it more abstractly. Think about how overwhelming it is. How it controls every aspect of your life. It’s like staring into the Grand Canyon and listening a conspiracy theorist podcast at the same time. There you go. Just think about your anxiety at all times, and you won’t have any bandwidth left to think about how everyone’s probably laughing at you and never liked you and you parents regret having you, etc. etc.


We’re not really sure what anxiety is, but it probably has to do with the monkey brain trying to deal with modern society. It makes sense that we’d feel like terrible things were going to happen and that someone is after us, because they probably will and they probably are. But it doesn’t do us a whole heck of a lot of good to stress out about it. The only way to really eliminate the sources of our anxiety would be to change the fabric of our society, and too many stupid people are profiting off of things being the way they are for that to happen any time soon. So, maybe those people have to go away permanently. That seems unlikely, since we can’t even seem to get the people we vote for, for president, to actually get to be president. Revolution is a messy thing, and the poor and most vulnerable are probably going to continue to suffer the most. That all means we’re stuck with this day-to-day living, just trying to get through from one Thursday when a new How To Even is posted to the next Thursday. Maybe we should run these more often. Hmm. Sounds like work. Nevermind.

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