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To Define "Awesome"

There are multitudes of words in the English language. Some of these words are precisely defined, some have multiple meanings, and some are "token words" used to emphasize or elaborate ideas. For example, the number of definitions for the token word "awesome" is limited only to the imagination of the user.

One Sunday afternoon I sat watching a basketball game. The Chicago Bulls were playing the L.A. Lakers. Michael Jordan, a star player for the Bulls, drove his way down court like a man with a mission. Jordan's approach to the basket was flawless, and with a twist of his hips and a jump into the air, he catapulted himself across the floor and dramatically slammed the ball through the hoop. That was "awesome."

Not only can the word "awesome" be defined in physical feats, but it can be described in physical sensations. A roller coaster ride is an excellent example. In my own experience, when the cars clicked nervously up the steep embankment that seemingly led to the edge of the sky, I realized that the tracks had not been as intimidating from the ground, and the twinge of anticipation in my gut was trampled by fear as I looked down for a check on altitude. I knew the time for second thoughts was well behind me as the first of the cars reached the pinnacle of the hill. When the train finally descended, it picked up speed with incredible pace. My stomach seemed to be looking for a good place to hide as it crept up behind my rib cage. The only screams I could hear were coming from my mind; my hands lunged for something like anchors from a mighty ship. The descent was like a fall in a nightmare, but I was wide awake. My eyes were closed much too tightly to see the bottom of this mountainous cliff, but I knew it must end. Just then, I felt something pull me down deep into the seat as the train took a more horizontal direction. The hills were much more tame here and I was relieved, hoping for no more similar experiences. As we decelerated through the last turn and came to the end, the brakes yanked the train to a halt. My mind made a feeble attempt to organize all this information to a stable thought, but all I could think was "awesome."

These ways of describing "awesome" manifest themselves in physical sights and sensations. "Awesome" can also be refined and used to illustrate abstract ideas (ideas that might go beyond comprehension or definite boundaries). The topic of "space" has fascinated many people through the centuries. Scientists collect data on it and develop theories on stars, planets, and the origin of the universe. Philosophers basically take this same information and ponder it for a while, then tell the scientists what idiots they are. As far as I'm concerned, space is here, space has always been here and always will be here. It is infinite. If you believe space is finite and you try to walk to the end of it, how do you determine that end? Would you see a wall? For if you did see a wall, surely you could climb to the other side. Would this then be finite? Would you fall off the edge? No? But you must fall somewhere--a popular, truly "awesome" debate.

These examples give a sample of my perspective on the definition of "awesome." There are many other perspectives as well, adding color and meaning to this word every day. Besides, it seems such a crime to give one lonely meaning to such a wonderful word.

--Thomas Fitzgerald

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