Awesome vs Amazing: A brief note on phenomenology

So, I’ve finished my bachelor of arts (humanities) majoring in literary & cultural studies and creative writing. I’ve done three years of semiotics. In that time I had one class that briefly touched on a couple of other methods for approaching literary analysis. One was psychoanalysis (Freud, Lacan, and all of them guys obsessed with seeing phallic symbols and fetishes everywhere), and the other was phenomenology. I didn’t really spend enough time on either subject to properly wrap my head around it (yet I was still required to pull a second year essay/presentation out of my ass on these subjects, but that’s another matter…) but I thought the idea of phenomenology was pretty interesting. Basically, the cultural context means squat to the person in the movie theatre or with the book in their hands. What matters is only how their body responds to the media. People experience things differenty, but the sensations should be something we can all relate to. I think that’s the general gist of it.

It got me thinking about the words I use to represent how I feel towards the things I read and watch, and I think I tend to fall back on two key words that mean something impressed me: ‘Awesome’ and ‘Amazing’.

Both are overwhelmingly positive, yet to me they evoke two completely different responses.

Awesome is what you get when something is high-action and fast paced. It’s a rush. Sometimes it’s a sensory overload. It’s a gut-punch or a “fuck yeah!” It’s something that sucks you right into the moment where the magic happens. When it’s done, you’re left with traces of awesome, but it’s a fleeting feeling. It’s limited. It’s something you’ve got to be there to understand.

Amazing is more of an eternal feeling. It sticks with you. It can be fast paced. It can be awesome. But it can also be a slow-burning feeling. I’ve read books and watched movies and TV shows and finished them and I’ve just felt numb. Like, where do I go next? How is anything going to top that? Those are the things that overwhelm me with the sadness that I’ll never again have the feeling of reading/watching this particular amazing thing for the first time. Its brilliance comes as a surprise at first, and then it lingers. Some books make my skin crawl just thinking about them, that’s how amazing they are.

Now, I don’t agree with everything about this way of reading texts, phenomenology. I think ultimately, my own reading is informed around culture and my understanding of culture, and that factors in to my experience of books and movies and such. But there is that other base level instinct that I think can’t be ignored if you’re mainly looking for entertainment. Certainly the most memorable things are the ones that evoke a response, or evoke a strong response. And there is much entertainment to be had in the fleeting moments of awesome. And the stuff that amazes comes with a familiar feeling of awe, yet it often ventures into the places ‘like nothing I’ve seen/read before’.

I think when I throw words like “awesome” and “amazing” around, at least at some level, my phenomenological experiences are being factored into it, and I’m sure there are plenty of other descriptions I use to summarise the things I watch and read that could be associated to bodily experience. I don’t know why I was thinking about this, as I haven’t actively engaged with phenomenology as a theory for over a year now. But then again, I think that’s how it works. No thinking about how the mind and body are manipulated into different states of feeling. There are only the things that happen, and the body that responds to it. Stop thinking about things so much.

One thought on “Awesome vs Amazing: A brief note on phenomenology

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  1. Yes yes yes. This is why I love reading. People who say books are boring and static and missing out on some of the most amazing, powerful and sublime physical experiences. There is no better feeling when a book makes you go “Wow.” Margaret Atwood frequently does this for me. Good one, Cartledge.

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