“The human species cannot bear too much reality,” the poet TS Eliot asserted vehemently. Indeed, reality seems to have a surplus character with respect to life, it comes upon it in the form of its surplus. Too much love, too much pain; Too much justice and injustice, too much ugliness and beauty … All in excess, all in too much. Strictly speaking, to return to Eliot, unbearable. More, much more than we are able to bear without harm, without any penalty. The reality is excessive, intense, total, of planetary, universal dimensions, with respect to it we are completely helpless and we are left with nothing but acquiescence and submission.
It subdues us, invades us, intimately colonizes us to the point of metastasis: it is the reign of hyperreality of which we are but modest subjects and humble vassals. More than a reign, that of hyperreality is an empire. Hyperreality is imperial, everything imperiously dominates it, people and events, all subject them to their whim.
Faced with the immense reality, life seems deficit, always scarce of itself, small, tiny, of derisory, tiny proportions. On the contrary, reality rules everything, it controls everything with the firm intention of having the entire world under its supervision.
But behold, mysteriously, that is the precise word, life resists. There is for life a precise form of esteem and consideration of everything, big or small: amazement. Amazement is a form of knowledge that does not seek possession of what is known, but respects it in its irreducible alterity. Awe is thus a friendly knowledge that reveals the direction of people and events, which puts them on their truest, safest track. It does not invade them, it only discovers them for itself.
Amazement is also a form of thanks to the revelation, the epiphany of reality. If the human species cannot bear too much reality, this is the way to cope with it: thanking it intimately, comforting it.
Amazement is also a form of deep understanding of the things of the world, of its entrails, of its precise nature, of its ways of being, of its existential modality. Thus, it can be said that things exist not so much for us to dominate them as for us to be amazed at them; not so that we convert them into our own image and likeness so that we recognize their own image and likeness, which is theirs.
Amazement is a compliment to everything that exists and because it exists, its persistence, its consistency, its continuity. Amazement praises, praises, acknowledges the merit of what exists and is congratulated for it.
He does not seek dominance or control, but the joyous affirmation of what is. Unlike hyperreality, it lacks planetary claims. The astonishment is of a modest and fragile consent, but without it things would not be claimed, reconciled with themselves by means of a joyous, festive vindication.
The human species cannot bear too much reality. Perhaps not the species, but each of us does and through amazement, a way to reconcile everything with everything and thus build a new and meaningful world, full of meaning.
Carlos Alvarez Teijeiro is Professor of Communication Ethics, Graduate School of Communication at Austral University