According to Miriam Webster, the definition of “amazing” is: “Causing great astonishment, wonder, surprise.” To be amazed is to be caught in a maze , perhaps feeling a bit hopeless and in the dark and suddenly, surprisingly, you stumble into the bright sunlight. Synonyms of the verb “amaze” include “astound, astonish, bowl over, dumbfound, flabbergast, floor, shock, stun, stupefy, stun, thunderstrike.” These are strong words, on the extreme edge of human emotion. If most language is a simple children’s song, this is high opera!
And so I just have to wonder at the comments on Facebook when after yesterday’s online Orff Conference, a fellow colleague posted a screenshot of the gridded squares and so many responded with “You are amazing!!!” Really? Isn’t this just a tad overdone? The guy I daily pass in Golden Gate Park juggling six balls strikes me as amazing. Stacey Abram’s work getting out the vote to turn Georgia blue is amazing. Brad Mehldau’s extended solo piano improvisation on the jazz standard Get Happy is amazing. But posting a screenshot from a Conference? Don’t think so.
In the world of things to be concerned about, this inflation of language and misplaced emotion seems low on the list. But still it says something about our national character, our willingness to settle for so little, to give undeserved standing ovations because we’ve lost the criteria to distinguish between the good, the special and the extraordinary. Yes, I prefer the bright-eyed open -armed “you’re awesome!” quality of my fellow Orff teachers over the scowling arms-crossed “you’re crap” of the old school style, but both of them miss the mark. And while children might smile a bit at each unearned over-affirmation, some part of them knows they didn’t quite deserve it and a single “not bad” from a teacher with high standards who they respect will hit a little deeper.
Just a little food for thought. And I do expect to see in the comment section: “Amazing piece of writing!! You’re awesome! Absolutely incredible!!! I’m flabbergasted by the depth of your thought!! These words struck me like a thunderclap!”