by Kathie England

Seekers of Awe

Awe – moments when we have a sense of wonder, an experience of mystery, that transcends our understanding. These are common experiences in human life globally. They are measurably health-giving and immunity boosting. They bring us together with others, again and again.

Those are the words that Dacher Keltner uses to describe awe during his On Being interview by Krista Tippett on February 2, 2023.

Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at the University of California, Berkeley and the founding director of the Greater Good Science Center. He hosts the podcast The Science of Happiness.

His latest book is Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life.

Dacher describes himself as a contrarian kid who grew up to be a scientist who wanted to measure things and to test things. He has turned to science to figure out awe.

Dasher’s research led him to what he describes as “Eight Wonders of Life,” the sources of awe. The biggest surprise in his research was discovering how ordinary awe can be. It’s everywhere! These are the eight wonders:

Moral beauty – the kindness and strength and courage and overcoming of others

Collective effervescence – moving together, feeling exalted, bubbling, being ecstatic

Nature – awe that happens outdoors in the wild

Music – connecting to others and to something larger than the self

Visual design – beauty and harmony, the “sacred geometries” in buildings and paintings

Spiritual/religious awe – mystical experiences, feeling embraced in love and benevolence relating to the divine and being the divine

Life and death – awe in the beginning of life and the end of life

Epiphanies – essential truths about and of life that “click” for us, transforming our understanding of life instantly

Dacher says that awe gives us, gives science, and us collectively a new way to talk about meaning, a compass for what matters. Awe tells us to go out and expand our view of things. It opens us to a conversation with ourselves or a reflection in the world about meaning and something larger than ourselves. The purpose of awe is “to recognize what’s life-giving.”

Awe has relevance not only for our individual states of being – it has relevance to our life together, our collective state of being and possibility. “Awe is really a direct pathway to addressing the social crises of our time.”

What might be possible if we truly embraced becoming seekers of awe?

I invite you to listen to the On Being interview with Dacher Keltner. Then buy and read his latest book Awe (as of this writing I’m about halfway through it). Begin listening to his podcast, The Science of Happiness.

These are all possibilities to help us discover Who We Can Be in 2023 and beyond!