The way they light up the sky, alter its colours––they act like a prism on my mood. No matter how I feel, a cloud at dusk will always make me stop, gaze at the sky, absorb its pastel skies and neon reflections, smile, and walk on feeling warm and happy.
I grew up without religion or spirituality, and was your typical teenage atheist. But at the age of 11, I began what turned out to be 13 years of severe depression, anxiety, and psychosis. They called it depression but I wasn’t sad - I was terrified. I hated myself and was convinced that everyone else hated me too. I would work myself into a frenzy of self harming every night - every night for 13 years, until I would find myself laying on the floor, gasping, too tired to continue, and I would pray for death.
Every time this happened, God came a little closer. Because when you’re at your most vulnerable, that’s when the monsters have done their work - and God comes over and says, “I still love you. I still love you, when you’re lying here helpless. I love you even when you’re completely lost from yourself.”
I didn’t “Find God”. I didn’t convert. I didn’t read a book to learn what God was about. I just felt something, over those years, pulling me up gently over and over again like an invisible string. Sometimes with my eyes closed, I would feel the room fill with light, and a warmth wash over me.
Now at the age of 24, the darkness is gone. The pain is gone. And every day I am thankful for His mercy. This song, Never Let Me Go, is exactly how God feels to me - and makes me feel awe every time I hear it. This feeling of being loved so unconditionally makes me cry and laugh at the same time.
I am working towards my master’s degree in neuroscience. My field is absolutely incredible, and there are tiny moments of awe peeking out at me all the time. For example- there are a over a thousand times more synapses (points where neurons communicate) in your brain than there are stars in the entire Milky Way galaxy. And yet these rattle away in almost perfect harmony for your entire life, whether or not you know they’re there.
But it was several days ago that learning about neuroscience actually gave me a physical sensation of awe. I was sitting in the library reading the book Connectome, by Sebastian Seung. Overall, the book is just okay, but there was one part that really moved me. Seung was describing how the arrangement of synapses in our brain could be one of the main things that determines the wide range of mental differences between people, and that this arrangement might be largely due to random chance.
I sat back in my chair, and my mind filled with the incredible, stunning variety of humanity. Introverted, extroverted, gay, straight, alcoholic, genius, bi-polar, claustrophobic, funny, obsessive-compulsive, musical, and on and on. I felt like we were all part of one fabric, and we should all work as hard as we can to respect and preserve the truly awesome richness of our species. For a moment, I felt as thought I had glimpsed something behind the scenes, beyond anyone’s control, that shapes our humanity, and it made me feel connected to every other person on the planet. And it made me love them.
Peter Hildebrand, East Hartford, CT
Row 14 - Barcelona.
Watching the moon rise over the ocean after reading A Short History of Nearly Everything by Bill Bryson on the beach all day. Try it and tell me if I’m not totally right.
I am awed by the power of belief. Belief is capable of rejecting the undeniable and embracing the unbelievable. Belief is the portal to an infinite number of possible realities. Near 7 billion people, 7 billion realities, all different; now that’s awesome!
Taken from the same park as the Ellis Island rainbow photo.