I’m sure that I’ve read this particular phrase before, but it caught my eye recently while voraciously consuming one of the latest Dean Koontz novels.
It evokes such a vivid image to me, as in, “I can’t believe you would do something so breathtakingly stupid…”
Breathtaking: Just that sudden gasp of surprise or fright or dismay that knocks your eyes wide and drops your jaw open. It’s like walking around a corner and bumping into a woman who, in that instant of recognition, is so strikingly beautiful or alluring that you suck in one quick half-gasp before your throat closes up, while your brain attempts to recover enough from the sensory overload to stutter out an incoherent apology, even as you continue to stand transfixed, blushing, drinking her in with your eyes.
It’s that short, sharp intake of air when, in the heat of some impassioned argument, your significant other crosses that ill-defined line and uses some deep point of vulnerability to get in an extra piercing jab, a sudden and stunning betrayal of trust.
The idea of something being so “breathtakingly stupid” that it quite literally robs your lungs of air. A hit to the solar plexus of your psyche that leaves you standing agape, for a moment cognitively unable to process the sheer, yawning magnitude of utter idiocy which you have just witnessed; or perhaps, for which you were just responsible.
Something which is “breathtakingly” beautiful just stops you in your tracks, dumbfounded, as you seek to take it all in, savoring every magnificent element.
Something breathtakingly stupid is at quite the opposite end of the spectrum, something which stops you in your tracks, dumbfounded as you struggle to comprehend, unable to look away, a vague half-grin of disbelief on your face as you stare with morbid fascination, something so over the top that it continues to hold you in its grip, even as it appalls you.