Wednesday, December 2, 2020

Finding perspective in awe

 

My browsing this morning brought me to an article in The Atlantic by science writer Marina Koren. In her story, "Galaxy Brain Is Real," she says:

Nebulae in the Large Magellanic Cloud.
Credit NASA, ESA, STScI

"Imagine yourself at a scenic vista somewhere on Earth, such as the rim 
of the Grand Canyon or the shore of an ocean stretching out past the horizon line. As your brain processes the view and its sheer vastness, feelings of awe kick in. Looking at a photo is not the same, but we might get a dose of that when we look at a particularly sparkly Hubble picture of a star cluster.

"The experience of awe . . . can lead to 'a diminished sense of self,' a phrase psychologists use to describe feelings of smallness or insignificance in the face of something larger than oneself. Alarming as that may sound, research has shown that the sensation can be a good thing: A shot of awe can boost feelings of connectedness with other people."

***

This "diminished sense of self," I thought... isn't that the goal of spiritual practice, entheogenic practice, or meditation practice? A diminishment of the self, a transcendence of ego, which then lets us sense a deeper and true connection to who and what are around us?

I thought how some of my favorite outdoor photos capture that feeling of awe, depicting our small selves in perspective, maybe on a mountain trail in northern Montana:


or on a frozen prairie in South Dakota:



Awe (noun): a feeling of reverential respect mixed with fear or wonder.

I'll take it.

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