Zooming In and Zooming Out: Exploring the Awe and Mystery that Live Just Outside Our Experience

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From Albert Einstein’s perspective, there are basically two ways of living: One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.

    People who regularly have experiences of awe are more likely to enjoy high levels of life satisfaction and treat others with compassion.

Dr. Jason Holland, Lifespark

It can be easy to miss the miracle in everyday life. Everything seems too ordinary; we’re too close to it.

‘Zooming in’ and ‘zooming out’ can help us to see the world (and our place in it) in fresh ways. Whether you’re stepping back and gazing up at the stars, or peering at the tiny universes that exist at atomic and molecular levels, these experiences have a way of inspiring a sense of awe and mystery.

People who regularly have experiences of awe are more likely to enjoy high levels of life satisfaction and treat others with compassion. But awe isn’t all sunshine and rainbows. It also makes us feel small and perhaps even insignificant. And that can be a very threatening realization.

In celebration of Earth Day, this week we’re going to spend some time zooming in and zooming out on our world. And we’ll be focusing particularly on ways to feel strong and significant, even when confronted with our smallness in the universe.

So, tune in every day this week for more on feeling large in a universe of infinite proportions. And in the comments below, let us know what experiences in life have made you feel small in the world.

 


Sources:

Bai, Y., Maruskin, L. A., Chen, S., Gordon, A. M., Stellar, J. E., McNeil, G. D., … & Keltner, D. (2017). Awe, the diminished self, and collective engagement: Universals and cultural variations in the small self. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113, 185-209.

Gordon, A. M., Stellar, J. E., Anderson, C. L., McNeil, G. D., Loew, D., & Keltner, D. (2017). The dark side of the sublime: Distinguishing a threat-based variant of awe. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 113, 310-328.

Piff, P. K., Dietze, P., Feinberg, M., Stancato, D. M., & Keltner, D. (2015). Awe, the small self, and prosocial behavior. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, 108, 883-899.

van Elk, M., Karinen, A., Specker, E., Stamkou, E., & Baas, M. (2016). ‘Standing in awe’: The effects of awe on body perception and the relation with absorption. Collabra: Psychology, 2, 4(1-16).

 

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