One of my daily prayers revolves around the hope that I can find practical help in alleviating the anxieties that circle my soul like hungry predators. A new book on the subject of awe seems to be an answer to those prayers. (Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life. By Dacher Keltner. Copyright © 2023. New York: Penguin Press. ISBN 978-1-9848-7968-4)
Professor Dacher Keltner, a widely acknowledged expert on human emotion, recently published a book that collects together his summation of current findings about awe. A University of California Berkeley professor, Keltner describes this basic human emotion in psychological, sociological and neurobiological terms. He approaches the subject from both a professional and personal point-of-view, sharing his own experiences with persuasive emotional honesty. He peppers his easily understood conclusions and assurances with anecdotes about the benefits of awe in the human spirit. His writing style includes abundant, quote-worthy summations and life-related questions. He makes awe approachable and possible.
First offering a concise definition and scientific description of awe, the book continues to explore the presence of awe in everyday experiences—moral, relational, spiritual. He describes a variety of sources for awe, including the natural world and worship. The chapters acknowledge useful ancient wisdom about awe, and also address current social science, neurobiology and societal trends. A final section offers readers encouragement for awe-infused lives. (Not to be overlooked: Keltner’s Notes section includes authoritative source material and further details.)
From previous readings on this subject, I thought I knew enough to appreciate the blessings of an awe-filled life. But Keltner opened the windows of my awe-awareness much further. While reading this volume, I’ve been re-examining the places where awe experiences are readily available to me. Like awe itself, Keltner’s writing has drawn me away from the narrow individualism of my anxieties into all the praise- and thanks-worthy elements of life that remind me of God’s goodness. (Look for future blog entries that will add specifics….)
Without knowing it, I’ve been looking for this book for years. Now that it’s here—and now that I’ve read it—I wanted to share this prayers-answered experience with you.
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