Total amazement

In the movie Joe Versus the Volcano, a man (played by Tom Hanks) believes he is dying of an incurable disease. He agrees to travel to a South Pacific island to throw himself into a volcano to satisfy the beliefs of the superstitious island residents.

But as he travels there, he . . . wakes up.

“Almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to . . . only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.” 

—from Joe Versus the Volcano by John Patrick Shanley

Total amazement happens often enough. But, constant total amazement? Much more challenging.

Usually, we need jarring events to awaken us. Power outages jolt us into amazement electric lights—the ones we flick on without a thought.

A broken leg—or even a cut on a finger—painfully reminds us of the wonder of a healthy body.

How about the device you’re reading this on? Isn’t the technology totally amazing?

We need to fall asleep to the amazement sometimes, just so we can function. After all, somebody has to do the dishes. If we lived in constant total amazement, we might get no farther than our bedroom doors every morning, or the park bench on a sunny afternoon. Because constant total amazement stops us in our tracks.

Perhaps John Patrick Shanley was right when he wrote those words for Joe Versus the Volcano. Maybe almost the whole world is asleep, just so we can get the dishes done and the lawn mowed.

But maybe, if we think about that, it will prompt us to wake up at least some of the time, maybe a little more often than we usually do. It’s a start.

What is totally amazing around you right now?

In the photo below you can see that my son is doing is best to live in constant total amazement.

Man sitting on a cliff edge in the south of France.
Yeah, mothers don’t worry at all when they see photos like this.

6 thoughts on “Total amazement

  1. Ally Bean

    Excellent question about being amazed, right now. I’m equally amazed that I’m talking online with someone I’ve never met while I’m looking out of the corner of my eye at a houseplant that is growing/thriving despite my haphazard approach to maintaining it. Both are amazing to me, just in different ways.

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      I guess you houseplant feels your love! I understand about haphazard houseplant care. Many a plant has languished while under my watch. When my mother moved to a retirement residence she gave me a Hindu rope plant. I was determined not to kill the plant she had nurtured for decades, so I watered it faithfully. Turns out, you can water too much? In conversation with her one day after, she told me, “Oh, I only watered that about every 6 weeks.” Ooops. I now have a reminder set in my calendar.
      And yes, I’m amazed at the connections we all have worldwide now. There are people I’ve never met who I feel like I’ve known for years.

  2. kyoungtravels

    Thanks for this, Arlene. It has given me much to think about, especially with regard to why I love to travel. Maybe I’m addicted to the constant total amazement? I have to think about this some more. Where is your son? It looks somewhat like Portugal, with the red-roofed houses and limestone mountains. And I love the caption under the photo — exactly what my daughter Rachel would say!! Kathryn

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      A search for constant total amazement sounds like a good reason to travel to me. I love living vicariously through you. 🙂
      My son and his friend are on an excellent European adventure during his month off between school term and work placement. He’s done the Netherlands, France, Switzerland so far and is on his way to Italy. There are other places on his agenda – I’m not sure of them all. The picture was taken in France.

  3. marianbeaman

    Thanks for helping to keep my sense of wonder alive. This post is amazing!

    I am totally amazed that my computer still works. Our web guy says it should have bitten the dust a long time ago because of its age. However, I have replaced the hard-drive and audio, which helps. Fingers crossed for our HVAC system. 😀

    1. Arlene Somerton Smith Post author

      Hi Marian,
      I will keep pulling for your computer. May it hang in there.
      It’s taken me a while to get to your comment – we had a doozy of a storm here in Ottawa on Saturday and much of the city is still without power. I am totally amazed at the destruction that occurred in just a few minutes. People who live in tornado regions would probably scoff at our reaction, but we’re not used to this!


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