Like three embers there are three passages in Ursula K. Le Guin’s Lavinia that touch upon the theme of awe. The first puts the word in the ambit of the notion of piety and refers to a receptiveness. Lavinia, our narrator and protagonist, is speaking of a woman being considered for an honourable task and indicates that she is pious.
By that word I meant responsible, faithful to duty, open to awe.
The second encounter with the theme of awe follows a lovely section where our narrator is in conversation with the wraith of a poet and they trade notions of Venus, one a personified goddess, the other an elemental being. Vergil, the poet in question, in considering Lavinia’s take on Venus calls her the foremother of Lucretius (and thus references the opening invocation to Venus at the beginning of the Nature of Things — of course behind Vergil is Le Guin). This provides some delicious texture to Lavinia’s musings about her state of being.
We are all contingent. Resentment is foolish and ungenerous, and even anger is inadequate. I am a fleck of light on the surface of the sea, a glint of light from the evening stare. I live in awe.
And towards the end of her storytelling, she brings awe into relation with the sublime.
At Albunea […] I was always spared from fear. Or rather I felt fear but it was entirely different from the sharp dread of losing Silvius, and from the endless alarms and anxieties of living; it was the fear we call religion, an accepting awe. It was the terror we feel when we look up at the sky on a clear night and see the white fires of all the stars of the eternal universe. That fear goes deep. But worship and sleep and silence are part of it.
And now I ponder what “worship” might mean beyond its etymological roots as the acknowledgement of worth.
And so for day 795