Rev. Luke F. Fodor
Saint Luke’s Church
A colleague of mine recently had a baby and her presence in the office—a day or two a week—has a had a transformative effect on all of us. Watching her look at the world and with a wide-eyed look of wonder before breaking into a smile brings me back to the days when my boys were that age. I remember the awe that filled my days watching them learn, grow, and develop. Each new basic motor skill acquired was a cause for awesome celebration, just as each new disgusting thing they stuck in their mouth was a moment of awful distress. While we regularly use the words—awful and awesome—to describe our daily interactions, we have lost our routine connection to the root of both words: awe.
As I watched little Penelope open to the world, responding with awe and wonder, my mind returned to the book I just finished: Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life by Dacher Keltner. In the book he struggles to come to grips with the premature loss of his best friend and brother to cancer by looking for more awe in his life. As a UC Berkley Psychology Professor, he had been researching emotions for decades and it has lead him to “discover” the Eight Wonders of Awe. He begins the book by asserting that: “Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your understanding of the world.” Awe is the door that leads us into the unknown, openness of a new world.
Dr. Keltner believes that “We are at this cultural moment of narcissism and self-shame and criticism and entitlement” and awe just might be the only way of that. It does this by helping us get out of our own heads and “realize our place in the larger context, our communities,” he explained. The book is well worth the read and contains many practices to foster our daily need for awe. One of the practices he details are “awe walks.” Just moving through space and paying attention to what is around us is an invitation to find awe.
On a recent awe walk, I was reminded of the story from the Book of Genesis: “Then Jacob woke from his sleep and said, “Surely the LORD is in this place—and I did not know it!” And he was afraid, and said, “How awesome is this place! This is none other than the house of God, and this is the gate of heaven.” So Jacob rose early in the morning, and he took the stone that he had put under his head and set it up for a pillar and poured oil on the top of it.”
Perhaps this is story might encourage all of us to “wake up” to the wonder of the world and cultivate more awe.
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