We turned a corner, and the view opened up. From the porch of the ruined manor house we could see the cultivated gardens around the lake, fading into forests sheltered by distant mountains. We had to stop and stare. My ten year old son summed it up:
“I feel like I need to whisper. I don’t know why.”
There was no one around. We could have spoken as loudly as we wanted to without bothering anyone, but somehow we couldn’t. The landscape around us silently commanded our reverence, and we had to obey. What was it about this stunning view that had the power to transfix us? Maybe it was the reminder of our smallness in the face of the world around us. We can tend to forget that one, closed up in our walls and footpaths and vehicles. But size isn’t everything. I’ve been in car parks that seemed endless, but they never inspired this kind of awe. Maybe it was the raw beauty that overpowered us, the sudden confrontation with our Maker’s art, reminding us that we live our lives inside the frame of a masterpiece. Maybe it was a bit of both.
There is a common thread through these feelings inspired by bigness and beauty, and that thread is self-forgetfulness. In the presence of majesty, we don’t need a mirror. We don’t need to fill the air with our pearls of wisdom. We know instinctively that the correct response is to soak in it, that the moment isn’t about us at all. We remember that the universe cannot be contained under our thumb, and refuses to kneel at our feet. That we are part of something much bigger than we are, something awesome and sacred, commanding us to whisper.
This world was not invented as a frame for our selfies. Our self was invented to stand in awe of the Artist behind the masterpiece.