This entry completes a series of entries about my reactions to the remarkable insights in a *new book about awe. Today: What’s the big deal, anyhow?
I owe you an explanation about what lies under my perhaps-dispassionate reporting about awe and wonder. I’ll be direct: As desirable and practiced attitudes, awe and wonder may hold promise as solutions—or at least corrections—to some of the bedeviling vexations of our individual and collective spirits in these times.
Luther names the First Commandment—“Thou shalt have no other gods.”—as the primary and perhaps only sin. Life problems that arise because of self-idolatry can’t be solved unless we somehow diminish our self-delusions about our place in the cosmos. Awe experiences—tangible, transfixing moments—take our souls beyond mere self-service. When we lose ourselves in awe and wonder alongside others. When our fears or other destructive emotions are overwhelmed by the marvel of being part of something vast and unifying. When we are humbled by the astounding lives of remarkable people.
During times of awe and wonder—whether everyday or once-in-a-lifetime experiences—we can momentarily transcend ordinary selfishness and put our love and empathy to good use, accomplishing tasks that contribute to the greater good. Fulfilling God’s will….
Awe and wonder might just be possible corrections—or cures—for the addictive epidemics of anger and lying. These maladies of the human spirit can prosper only if we believe ourselves to be god-like, the center of the universe and therefore deserving of everything we get. In the middle of awesome moments, that self-centeredness isn’t as possible.
This was a good book, and I hope you read it. Not only because it’s fresh, or because it connects so strongly with the ethics of Christian living, with Jesus’ way. What excites me is the pragmatic possibility that awe and wonder—bedrock attitudes because we serve an awe-inspiring God—could heal us, individually as a society.
That would be awesome, yes….?
*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
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