Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” So, let’s examine it together. In Etymology, I’ll be presenting a word each week with its generally accepted definition and riffing on this word as a way to get us to talk about life together. This is meant to be a discussion based article, with emphasis on “together.” In one sense, these articles will be written and complete when they are published, but they will not be whole without your input. All of us could use better words to describe our lives. So, let’s go through life together in words. Helping each other and improving together and always remembering to breathe.
Sitting around a fire pit Downtown the other night, a man spouted off about all these “epiphanies” he had within the last couple of days. Though I should have been more supportive, the fact that he kept saying “epiphany” over and over again bothered me, and I lashed out.
“I do not think you know the meaning of the word epiphany. I think we need to get a dictionary and check.”
I am never that confrontational. For some reason, the over usage of the word angered me.
I now know why I reacted the way I did. Epiphany means a lot to me. The word epiphany is sacred. It is exquisite. It is beyond the everyday norm. Epiphanies change a person to the core, and do not occur often. It is not simply a realization about yourself, or the world, or the meaning of life. It is yourself. It is the world. It is the meaning of life. We should not misuse it or belittle its meaning.
An epiphany is “the sudden intuitive leap of understanding or comprehension of the essence or meaning of something; an illuminating realization or discovery, often resulting in a personal feeling of elation, awe, or wonder.” It is also defined as “an appearance of god: the supposed manifestation of a divine being.”
We cannot have a sudden understanding that likens to witnessing a divine being hourly, or daily, or weekly or maybe even monthly. Yes, we want to. Yes, sometimes we think we have. But that should not be.
Epiphanies are monumental. They are omnipotent. Epiphanies are exhausting, devastating, and life altering. They remold you into a new person. You have understood something that you should not have the capacity to understand. You are seeing a god. You have figuratively fallen and attempt to drag your body away while not taking your eyes off of the divinity, that fills you with terror, awe and peace. It is the most beautiful thing in the world that you have ever witnessed.
This does not happen when you have an “epiphany” that you care too much about others. Or any other insight that we might have about ourselves from time to time.
After the word epiphany was said numerous times, I knew I had to write about it. I had to look it up.
I found a fire statue, named Epiphany. She is used in Burning Man, and Oakland California’s Fire Arts Festival. She is the epitome of how I understand the word epiphany. Huge and metal, she is on her knees with her arms raised to the sky. There is a mixed look of pain and wonder in her face. She is epiphany. Then from this state a flame sparks in her chest. The flames pulsate in this specific area a couple of times. She bursts into flames head to toe. She is an inferno. Awe-inspiring, beautiful and frightening. She is the personification of epiphany. She is a visual epiphany.
She is epiphany.
When we burst into a immense inferno of understanding, when we are brought to our knees, when we burn…we have had an epiphany.
Do not belittle the word, the experience, of epiphany.
Cherish, fear and understand the mammoth that is an epiphany.