I’ve been reading some new work by Sharman Apt Russell (look for her new book Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist this June), and she uses the word “numinous,” which, of course means “Of or relating to a numen; supernatural. 2. Filled with or characterized by a sense of a supernatural presence: a numinous place. 3. Spiritually elevated; sublime.” (American Heritage Dictionary).
I find myself not only thinking about what is numinous in my life – mountains definitely are, as are my cats when they’re sleeping (likewise with babies) and the stars at my parents house where streetlights don’t interrupt them — but I’m also thinking about vocabulary and how sometimes it’s a word that opens up a world.
I remember when I first learned that “serendipity” meant a happy accident (not just the name of a purple dragon in one of my childhood books), and suddenly, I understood a whole element of the world that I hadn’t been able to conceptualize fully before. Somehow, as linguists have long taught, words give us ideas.
And sometimes, I think words absolutely fail – then we need to turn to the numinous to understand.