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Rules for Anchorites

Letters from Proxima Thule

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I have noticed something lately.

That something is the word "awesome."

I just used it three times in one email. I hear it constantly, more than when I was a kid and had a hot pink bathing-suit that said AWESOME across my non-existent boobs. Such and such is made of awesome. So and so is full of awesome. It is my goal to become more awesome. Awesome, awesome, awesome.

At first I was irritated--can I not branch out in my adjective-use? Why am I doing this? What the freaking hell?

But the other night while justbeast and I were brushing our teeth and getting ready for bed, which has become a nice little moment of quiet conversation as we switch off sink use, I started babbling about how ubiquitous awesome has become.

And I realized that when I say ubiquitous I mean ubiquitous among the online community, my friends, my colleagues--who are all geeks of one stripe or another. There was a point in my life when I was the nerd among mainstream people, and that time is no more.

And we, geeks and nerds and bloggers, are using it to mean something different than just a synonym for "great." We're using it to mean arete.

Yes! The classicist strikes again! But...we are. More awesome. Full of awesome. Made of awesome. We're using it as a noun, as a word for excellence, for personal excellence exercised in daily life, whatever is our own awesomeness, our own skills, our own passions, even if they are small, housecleaning or debugging or patching jeans. We did it with awesome, and were awesome because of it. We are using the word that means the greatest thing Achilles can achieve for himself for the greatest things we can achieve. And when someone at a con says that she is questing to become more awesome, that's what she means: more perfectly herself, more precisely and intensely involved in everything she does, doing what she does in the best and most fabulous way it can be done, more hardcore, more awesome. We are awesome, you are awesome, they are awesome.

We are using a new word to mean a very old, very beautiful thing, and we use it over and over because it resonates, not that word necessarily, but that meaning. That need to be perfectly oneself. Arete. Aresteia. We are telling each other how to do it, when we've managed it, how we hope to reach it in days and years to come. We are pointing to things great and small and saying something a Greek thing with an English word, and it has become meaningful, it has become part of the vocabulary of the virtual world.

And that...is awesome.

How awesome that you used the word "arete". :-) Just today we covered the word in Ancient Philosophy according to Aristotle. The more I am learning about this class and my Women in Ancient Rome art history studies, the more I think everyone - especially writers and artists, should be required to study the classics.

No argument here.

And I think you are expressing your arete with your jewelry. I'm buying some for your Christmas fund later this week--and you should know I wore the eye necklace at World Fantasy.

Yes, but see, now I want to go around exclaiming Arete! whenever I feel delighted. ; )

I've been growing more and more self-conscious about using the word myself these last couple of weeks, and I think it was really at the con that I noticed how often I was saying it. Then, a couple of days ago, a charming older Irish gentleman of my acquaintance seemed really chuffed when I said it, like it was this adorable North American Youth thing to chuckle over, and I blushed. I much prefer the vindication you're giving it here. Personally, I've always looked at it sort of literally: awesome. And it's great to be so frequently awed, no?

I like to use the word "awesome" literally, when I can. A sense of overwhelming awe... it doesn't overcome me frequently, but when it does, there it is, and it has a word.

However, I'd like to point out Brotherhood 2.0 as one possible cause of some of the upswing in usage of that word. I don't know how widespread its viewership is, but I know I watch it and talk about it, and I've gotten at least 1 or 2 friends watching it, and we use its terminology sometime, which includes a lot of "awesome," "made of awesome," and a nifty catchphrase "Never forget to be awesome," also abbreviated NFTBA.

Fuck yes.

I defend to the death (hopefully not) our right to use and over-use that word. Because like you said, when used with ferocity and sincerity, it is a beautiful thing.

Arete. I really like that.

To find the awesome, is to transcend the sublime.

Fucking awesome.

Your words are timely in the most uncanny way-- I've been observing my own use of the word; over and over and over and over...

To find the awesome, is to transcend the sublime.

Someone ought to stitch that as a sampler.

Here in New England, it's wicked awesome. *g*

It frightens me that that's coming back. I feel old.

That's a very cool observation; I hadn't thought of it that way.

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See, justifying your bad habits is a sacred act. ;)

That was a... really well put. May I reprint it in Readers List? You would be credited as the author, there would be a link back to your original post, and comments would be turned off so that if someone has something to say, they'll say it here.

I love arete! I love the concept, and I can see where it's being translated into "awesome". Sort of. I'll have to think on it - but if youre right, that is, indeed, awesome.

It's certain usages: I was made of awesome today, house of awesome (______________ of awesome), being more awesome. It's mostly when it's used as a noun--I can actually hear the tone people use change.

as a former player of mage the ascension in my ,ind now i will overwrite the arete space of character sheets with awesome..

Sorry, but as a cruciverbalist, not a classicist, arete will always be the sharp mountain ridge.

I love your take on the use of "awesome" in the geek vernacular. It is, as you say, made of awesome. I can't untangle my thoughts well enough to articulate them: how wonderful it is that the concept of arete has become relevant, that we've made it relevant; that we, as a whole and acting together, have recognised the lack of vocabulary for this idea and found such an excellent descriptor; crying, "screw mediocrity and the lowest common denominator, let us all strive for awesome!" It makes me joyful.

THIS POST is made of awesome. Meta awesome, because it's about awesome. Can I link to you on Per Omnia Saecula?

When I took a workshop with Li-Young Lee a few years back, he spent a lot of time talking about the Sublime. His word was "whoa"--if in one hand you held the world's most perfect rose while your other hand pointed on the other side to a steep, vast chasm, you could look at either and, with only slightly differing inflection, say "whoa." Also think of Rilke: "every angel is terrifying...." Awesome, indeed.

I just used it in my mind to describe what kind of a lawyer I am.