Amazed or Dismayed

Have you ever had one of those moments where everything – even the commonplace- just seems amazing? I’ll give you an example:

A few weeks ago, my sweetie and I were driving through the desert on our way to California, when I noticed a series of seemingly unimportant things that – when looked at more closely – got me lost in thought about how remarkable they were, if not miraculous.

I glanced down at my dashboard and noticed that it was 115 degrees outside the car. Inside, my side was set at a cool 69 degrees, where my wife had her side set at 71. It was 44 degrees cooler inside the car than outside! 44!

Did I mention that we were hurtling down the road at 80mph? In a metal and plastic box? Even better, the car knew how fast I wanted it to go, so I didn’t even have my foot on the pedal. The car also was paying attention and would let me know if I started drifting out of my lane. If a car in front of me was driving slower than I was, my car would slow down and keep its distance, then speed back up when it had the opportunity.

While this was all going on, Chrissie started nodding off, so I thought I’d play some calm music. “Hey Siri, play the album Aimee Mann, Lost in Space.” When I said that, the microphone in the car picked up my voice and sent the request to my phone, which sent my request to a cell tower, which sent it through some kind of network until it reached some computer in the sky. This computer picked the album out of its vast archives and sent it back, streaming, to my phone, which in turn, sent it to my car stereo. Viola! Music!

As I was listening to the music, someone texted me. I pushed a button on a screen in front of me and the music paused. A disembodied voice read the incoming message and asked if I wanted to respond. I told the voice what I wanted to say back. The voice read my reply back to me and asked if I wanted to send it. I did. After, the music resumed playing.

All while we were flying down the road at 80mph.

Amazing, right? Something that is not unique by any stretch, almost commonplace now, yet still almost miraculous if you stop and think about it. Don’t think so? Imagine one of your pioneer ancestors (who were lucky to log 10 miles in a day) sitting next to you in your car trying to comprehend what they are witnessing.

Which brings me to one of my favorite quotes, from a mediocre movie, Joe vs. the Volcano. Meg’s character Patricia says this:

“My father says that almost the whole world is asleep. Everybody you know. Everybody you see. Everybody you talk to. He says that only a few people are awake and they live in a state of constant total amazement.”

For a few minutes on the drive to Cali, I was in a state of constant amazement. I liked it. I don’t do amazement often enough.

On the other side of the spectrum we have dismay. There are so many things to be dismayed about in today’s messed up world. However, being dismayed can always be countered by being amazed. For example:

Sure, there might be 10 cars in line ahead of you at the drive through. That’s dismaying. However, think about how amazing it is that you sit in your car and talk to a person through a microphone and tell them what you want to eat. Then, in just a few minutes they will open a little window and hand you a bag containing the food you asked them for. All while you are looking at instagram pictures that are being loaded onto your phone….etc.

Simply amazing. Don’t think so? I wonder how the Willie-Martin Handcart Company would feel about drive-thru Chick-fil-A.

Sure, these examples are very Western privileged and affluent, but the principle is everywhere. A few months ago, I wrote about a young Mozambican girl and how amazed she was by a water bottle. Some of the most amazing things we encounter everyday are things we completely take for granted and rarely even notice.

You want amazing? I can walk into my kitchen, fill a glass with water and drink it. The water is pure, cold, filtered and readily available ALL THE TIME.

(And as I’m sitting here typing this, I hear the sprinklers in the backyard turn on, automatically. *chuckle*)

I’ve talked about being amazed by using relatively trivial, material things for examples, but the principle applies to emotional and spiritual things as well.

Elder Dieter F. Uchtdorf’s Conference talk, “Oh How Great the Plan of Our God,” where he said this:

“We are surrounded by such an astonishing wealth of light and truth that I wonder if we truly appreciate what we have.”

“We tread a path covered with diamonds, but we can scarcely distinguish them from ordinary pebbles.”

It takes a conscious effort to notice the diamonds, even beyond trying to pay better attention. Sometimes we have to make some changes – some give up social media, some quit watching the news, some find new, enjoyable hobbies, some turn to friends, some turn away from toxic people. (This is part of the reason I spend far less time on social media lately.)

I think that being amazed is closely linked with gratitude, and, as always, focusing our gratitude to the Lord is slam-dunk methods to see the world in a better light – to be more amazed, and less dismayed.

“I Stand All Amazed” is one of the great hymns for a reason. It resonates with us as we grapple with what is most serious and most important – and also most difficult to understand. The Atonement of our Savior is infinitely more amazing that driving a car.

Take a few minutes today to take apart something you see, or feel, and look for the amazement – especially if you are caught up in dismay.  If anything, I should make a conscious effort to be amazed much more often. Positive amazement is wrapped around the ideas of humility and gratitude – perhaps a reflection of both.

Yesterday I played with a couple of my grandkids and am amazed at how quickly they learn and grow. Things are amazing all around us, but sometimes we don’t notice because we are too busy being dismayed.

Have an amazing Sabbath,


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  1. Excellent post, Brad. Again! I love this concept and I really do live in amazement. I have been teased for it often in my life, but I’ve felt deep-down the “teasers” were appreciating what I brought to the conversation. Gratitude goes hand-in-hand with this so I am grateful you pointed that out. Beautifully said, as always. Thank you.

  2. I choose amazement, I walk everyday at 5:30am, amazed everyday at the sunrise, wishing everyone was awake to take in all that beauty.

  3. First, you quoted Joe vs. the Volcano, one of my favorite of all time movies. Second, you are an Amiee Mann fan, we’re a rare breed.

  4. I just finished a totally on a whim a driving trip by myself. I had already spent 9 days driving from AZ to KY and was almost home when I was in NM and decided to just keep driving to Seattle. I saw so much beauty and wonder I was saying “How Great Thou Art” almost every mile. Then coming home through the Redwoods and down HWY 1 was almost beyond comprehension. I felt and learned so much along with increase of gratitude for what I’ve been given. What a Blessing!

  5. I think on that quote from Joe vs the volcano often… I love that movie because of it! It also reminds me of Santa in The Rise of the Guardians as he teaches about WONDER… both great descriptive words AND great things to feel… thanks for reminding me to focus on those things more often😊

  6. My wife and I walked the 500-mile Camino de Santiago this past spring with nothing more than what we could carry on our backs. It took a few days, but soon I found myself marveling at things like the vibrant green of budding plants, or the shine of color on a bird’s wing. More than once I would be humming to myself, and then realize it was the music to “I Stand All Amazed.” I think simplicity leads often to amazement and gratitude.

  7. All of the miracles of technology are amazing, and I regularly express gratitude for them. I wonder if too many people today are so focused on their screens that they forget to see the wonders of nature around them. I look out my windows each morning and evening to see the sunrise, sunset, moonrise and moonset, as they happen. I love to see the colors of the sky and clouds. It is like a beautiful postcard from God! There is much to be thankful for each day. Miracles of modern life, and miracles of nature.

  8. Great reminder! I’ve been trying to focus less on my concerns and more on my blessings and to express my gratitude more often.
    (Also, if you ever want a proofreader, let me know. I’d be happy to do it for free.)

  9. Thank you, Brad. My EC and I just finished a 2,600-mile trip and we talked a bit about the same amazing things, and how it would feel to our ancestors who traveled west in a wagon or on foot. We awoke this morning in a comfortable bed, under a roof, inside a climate-controlled home. The pantry is full. We have so very much to be thankful for.

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