Awe: So Tiny A Word for So Great a Thing

Jeanne M. Lambin
6 min readDec 12, 2023


AI Generated Image created by Jeanne Lambin in collaboration with Mid-Journey.

Welcome to Rabbit Hole Wednesday where we celebrate the birthday of an iconic image and contemplate the power of the improvisational mindset.

So tiny a word for so great a thing

Has this every happened to you? You are on a flight, In a window seat. It is dark inside the plane. It is dark outside the plane, except for those lights, those lights, those lights embroidered across the quilt of darkness. And as the nightscape slowly scrolls past, you are reminded that you are looking at earth, the Earth — -a planet so magnificent it takes the definite article. You have this moment of awestacy, holyf*ckness, howisthatpossibleness, and whatever other altitude-infused superlatives you want to shout into the void.

This was my experience on a recent fight where I woke from the derangement that passes for sleeping on planes to discover that London had magically appeared beneath my window. Not only was it visually spectacular, but of all the the flightpaths in all the world, that mine arced over a city that a special hold on my heart, at precisely the moment where I woke up to see it. Oh London, a city I pine for like a lost love, there it was, twinkling and winking away.

I refrained from waking my fellow passengers to gawp. I refrained from uttering a Walt Whitmanesque yawp over the roofs of the world. Looking out the window, it felt like I could plunge my hand into to depths of the universe, pierce the time space continuum, and touch the other side. It was one of those moments were we can fathom the seemingly unfathomable. Awe or

that sense of wonder we feel in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world.

is so tiny a word for so great a thing.

Image by the author. London, at night, as seen from above. November 2023.

And maybe you contemplate the ridiculousness and improbability of it all. And maybe it feels like the luckiest thing in the world to be jammed into a metal tube with hundreds of other people sailing across the night sky. And maybe it feels like the unluckiest thing, that something so incredible on so many levels, could be so bad for the planet on so many levels. And maybe then, what was fathomable becomes unfathomable again because you wonder, how, how, how did we get here?

And you know that when you are on Earth it can be easy to forget to remember. It can be easy to forget to remember: that we are on a planet in a solar system, in galaxy, in a universe. We are like a gut microbe in the biome of the universe…or maybe we are a just a big blue marble floating in space.

And you wonder how did we get here, even if you are not exactly sure where here is.

The Earth is a Big Blue Marble

How did we get here indeed. It’s fascinating to contemplate that, for millions of years, we existed without the ability to gaze at our collective home from afar. We spun around the sun, again, and again. We looked into space rather than from it. That said, I don’t think that meant we were any less awed by our existence. Even a hand-print can contain the multitudes.

Cueva de las Manos, Santa Cruz, Argentina, created between 7,300 BCE and 700 CE. Image credit: Canva.

Then on December 7th, 1972 that sense of awe had a new object. The astronauts of NASA’s Apollo 17 Mission captured the iconic image below, dubbed, The Blue Marble. The image transformed the way we visualize our planet and our role in protecting it. It’s almost like we, as a planet, were able to look in the mirror for the first time and there we are looking back, the vast expanse of endless space stretching behind us.

Our collective history is punctuated by these “Blue Marble moments” that bring a certain thunderstruckness to our existence. That felt sense of awe alters how we see the world. How we experience the world.

Image: The Blue Marble, taken by the Apollo 17 crew in 1972. Credit: NASA

A way to deal with the whelmness?

And one of the headf*cks of being human is that somehow we have to balance the experience of this awe with having to wear pants (or whatever that equivalent is for you) and go about our daily existence and hold the whelmness of the world where, even if things are okay enough in your corner of it, how does a heart exist in a world where it is so decidedly so not okay for so, so many?

And at the risk of sounding like a repetitive, wackadoo, evangelist, I do think improvisation and storytelling are very powerful means to help us cope with all that is the all. Approaching the world with an improvisational mindset helps us transform our experience of the world. Storytelling helps us make sense of that experience and then that grounding can help us act to transform it.

AI generated image of The Squirrel holding a story. Created in collaboration with Mid-Journey.

And by applied improvisation, I do not mean its all glee, and jazz hands, and clapping games as we collectively sally towards the cliff off climate change. And this is not to disparage glee or jazz hands or clapping games. It just means that there can be a perceived frivolity towards improvisation and storytelling. As we panic-pack our hand basket, there can be a sense that there is no room for such things. We need to make room for the serious stuff, the necessary stuff.

And yet, perhaps it is approaching the world with an improvisational mindset — -to pay attention, to accept, to listen, to support, to let go, and so much more…

Perhaps this is what makes it possible to be present for the serious stuff, for the necessary stuff, and to wrest from our imagination a meaningful story that will help us see our way through it and to help others find their way as well.

Improvisation as a Blue Marble Moment

Perhaps approaching the world in this way makes it possible to say, “yes..I am not sure how we got here, And I have an idea of how to find our way out. And here, here, here, are some moments of awe to tide us over as we make our way through it.”

Because when you pay attention to the world, it is then possible to connect to the wonder of it.

And maybe the improvisational mindset, is its own Blue Marble, a chance to see ourselves and our world in a completely new way and embedded in those moments of seeing, are those moments of awe.

Which brings us to…our new workshop

If you are interested in accessing the improvisational mindset as a means of navigating this perilous existence, check out our new workshop, The Year of the Ordinary Extraordinary which will help you regularly access those Blue Marble Moments and experience the improvisational mindset as a way to connect to the magic of the ordinary, the extraordinary, and everything in-between.



Jeanne M. Lambin

I help people imagine, create, and live better stories for themselves, their communities, and the world.