Awe is Powerful and Rare

I read the article by Dr. H. Steven Moffic, MD, “The Psychiatric Best of: In Awe of Awe” today. I agree that experiencing awe is powerful.

I’m not so sure you can go looking for it. I think of awe as an experience that just happens to you when you’re in a place that gives you a sense of how great the universe is and gives you an idea of how small your place in it is.

We didn’t go looking for awe when we visited the Grand Canyon National Park in Arizona many years ago. And we didn’t look for it at Niagara Falls.

But we were awestruck.

On a smaller scale, we were awestruck by the total lunar eclipses this year, in May and November. I’ll admit the cold temperatures at 2:00 a.m. put a damper on my enthusiasm.

On the other hand, I’m more often dumbfounded. It’s not the same thing as awestruck. For example, I’ve been trying to learn how to do the behind the back throw in juggling. I hit my elbow, I drop the balls, and I don’t seem to learn much from watching YouTube videos of jugglers who can do it effortlessly. I’m amazed by their talent and achievement and appreciate the dedication to practice they underwent to reach that level of skill. And I respect them for it.

But it’s not the same as being awestruck. Awe seems to me to be a rare and wonderful accident, something to be treasured in memory, but which might be elusive if sought.

You can’t enter “Awe inspiring destinations” in your GPS. I’m sure everyone has seen tourists at the Grand Canyon or Niagara who seem to be too busy getting selfies with their smartphones to be receptive to awe.

I guess you could ask, “Can you cultivate a readiness to be awestruck?” There is probably no specific brain lobe to which awe is assigned.

And I think Dr. Moffic is right about constant awe being incompatible with living your life doing what you have to do every day to survive.

Awe, like all miracles, should be rare to be appreciated.

Author: James Amos

I'm a retired consult-liaison psychiatrist. I navigated the path in a phased retirement program through the hospital where I was employed. I was fully retired as of June 30, 2020. This blog chronicles my journey.

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