23 min read

The beauty of awe

The beauty of awe
Photo by Serey Kim / Unsplash

In the fall of 2004, I spent a couple of months in rural Ontario. One evening late in the year, I stepped out into the backyard of the house where I was staying and was dumbstruck. Green flames were dancing across the sky. I had never seen anything like it, and even though I had read about the phenomenon of the northern lights before, I couldn't help but stand there motionless with my mouth open.

Even if you haven't seen the aurora boeralis first-hand, I'm sure you've had a similarly powerful experience of encountering something similarly vast, immense, even tinged with terror. The word beauty doesn't seem adequate to capture this experience.

In the 1750s, Edmund Burke distinguished the beautiful – which he associated with delicacy, harmony, and clarity – from the sublime, which he saw as a more powerful emotion, associated with a sense of astonishment, vastness, and being overwhelmed. In his words:

The passion caused by the great and the sublime in nature, when those causes operate most powerfully, is Astonishment; and astonishment is that state of the soul, in which all its motions are suspended, with some degree of horror.

Kant, writing a few years later, continued to see the sublime as distinct from beauty, but for him, it had less to do with terror or danger and more to do with a feeling of something like respect in the face of encountering something limitless. And this is closer to how most of us today think about awe.

Can something so elusive, mysterious, and seemingly ineffable be put to scientific scrutiny? That's precisely what Berkeley psychologist Dacher Keltner and his team have managed to do over the past few years. In his latest book Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How it Can Transform Your Life, Keltner explains how we find awe in eight "wonders of life" – moral beauty, collective effervescence, nature, music, visual design, spirituality and religion, life and death, and epiphany.

In my recent interview with him, we talked about not just the science of awe but also the awe of science: how experiences of awe might facilitate scientific inquiry, which in turn might be a source of awe.

You can listen to or watch our conversation below.


Transcript

Brandon: Let's start with what drew you to the scientific study of awe. People talk about the word awe as something ineffable, and yet you've been able to scientifically study it. What drew you to that? How has that pursuit been for you?

Dacher: Well, part of the reason that I studied awe scientifically is personal. I was lucky to be raised by parents who really encouraged awe. My dad is a visual artist, so I spent a lot of time as a kid looking at paintings. My mom taught Romanticism in literature, and really taught me a lot about the sublime in literature. I lived in a wild period of my childhood of the '60s in Laurel Canyon, in Los Angeles. Music and political change were in the air. So, it was just part of my early childhood.

Then what drew me to it more recently, scientifically, was the Darwinian effort to understand just the evolution of human emotion — that these amazing emotions, they're part of mammalian evolution. We can measure them with vocalization and facial expression and physiology, and how they change our relationship to the world. It was almost a privilege to use these tools of science to try to understand — like you said, Brandon, what's so ineffable — awe, and see what we can learn about it.

Brandon: Let's talk about what awe means. Some people use the words awe and wonder, and even beauty interchangeably. Can you tell us a little bit about, as a psychologist, how do you see these terms? How would you define them?

Dacher: Yeah, there are a lot of related states that we have to make sense of. Awe is the feeling of encountering vast mysteries that you can't make sense of with your current understanding of the world. Wonder is more of a mental state or an epistemological state that follows awe. You have an experience of awe. I'm astounded by an earthquake or somebody's kindness. That kicks into gear a lot of cognitive activity, wonder. How could that happen? How do I explain that? How do I make sense of it? How do I update my knowledge structures?

Beauty has long been a relative of awe, just like horror. Edmund Burke and Immanuel Kant, many people in the past 300 or 400 years and earlier, had been trying to differentiate the awe we feel in nature or listening to music versus beauty. Burke really got it right, that beauty is softer. It isn't so in relation to vast things like awe. It's a little bit more affectionate. Some music that's beautiful just has a different feel to it. It's not so dramatic like Beethoven, or U2, or the Sex Pistols, or what have you. It's just softer. Then we have to differentiate awe from fear and horror, which are really about peril and death and destruction. Awe is really just about what is vast and mysterious, and how we make sense of it.

I'll say, Brandon, it's hard scientifically to separate awe from beauty. Your question is very on point. I'd really recommend your listeners to look at the work that I've been lucky enough to do with Alan Cowen. Really new kinds of what we call data-driven approaches: gathering faces and voices and experiences in response to all kinds of stimuli. You can really pull apart awe from beauty and fear and horror and terror, which is encouraging.

Brandon: Fantastic. What has surprised you the most about what you've learned through your research in awe?

Dacher: Yeah, a couple of things that really caught us off guard. One, we surveyed people around the world. The most common source of awe is not religion, or spirituality, or even nature for the most part. It's the moral beauty of other people. That just kept surprising us. We stereotype awe in the West as a nature emotion. In a lot of cultures, it feels religious. But really, in our everyday experience, it's other people's kindness, their courage, and their ability to overcome obstacles.

The other one that really surprised us is, we did these diary studies in China, in Barcelona, in Japan, and other places. At the end of every day, we'd ask them, "Did you have an experience of awe, something vast and mysterious?" Two to three times a week, people reported an experience of awe. I was like, what? I thought you have to hop on a plane, and go to some remote place to feel awe.

Brandon: That's right. Or, climb a mountain or two.

Dacher: Yeah, and it's what we call everyday awe. It's around us.

Brandon: That's really fascinating. Do you find that there are cultural differences at all in the kinds of experiences that characterize awe? Anything at all that you find that varies? How universal is this?

Dacher: I think that a lot of our data suggests 60% universality. There's a core structure to this experience in terms of how we vocalize and its meaning, and what feels vast. But there are really robust cultural differences. Some cultures are more nature-focused like the United States. Other cultures are more social-focused like China, where they feel awe towards great teachers.

Awe really varies in the sense of agency, where in the West — Western European cultures or Western European subcultures within the West — they feel a greater sense of agency within awe, as opposed to more East Asian cultures where it feels more circumstantial or forces beyond human agency. We have funny findings showing in the West, in Western European parts of the United States, awe is more self-generated. People are awestruck by like, "Man, I did so well on that test."

Brandon: Like “I am awesome.”

Dacher: Yeah. And you know, that was kind of embarrassing. Like, come on! There's more to awe than you! But that was surprising. So, it's just the old story of like, there's so much that's core to it that's just human. There's profound variations. Then finally, we're starting to find that awe, for some cultures, is much more threatening. Awe is positive around the world. But for hierarchical cultures, religious cultures, there's this sense of threat, judgment, peril that's more prominent.

Brandon: Wow, it's really fascinating. What do you think? What would you say are the causes of this awe? What triggers this in your research? What do you find there? What's driving it?

Dacher: Yeah, that's such an important question. Because you get this definition of what's fast and mysterious, or you need to modify your knowledge structures. That doesn't really appeal to people in some sense. Because they're like, yeah, but where do I find it? What causes this?

We actually did a lot of work that we're starting to get out into the published realm. We surveyed people in the spirit of William James, just gather stories of the mystical and awe in this case. We surveyed people in 26 countries, and we said, "Tell us what made you feel awe." We had speakers of 20 languages translate those stories from 26 different countries. We discover what I call the 'eight wonders of life' in this book Awe, which is, what brings us awe? What causes it? Moral beauty of other people, collective movement, rituals, dance, festivals, nature, music — very common — visual design, a building's design, a painting, spirituality.

Then two that are less common but interesting, which is big ideas — it's interesting, Brandon. Have you been moved by a big idea where you're like, God, I can't believe this idea — and then life and death. People feel awe around the world to the emergence of life, and then when it goes.

Brandon: Why is it important for us to feel awe? Can we live perfectly happy lives without experiencing awe or at least without taking it seriously? Is it important for us to have such experiences?

Dacher: I mean, you're catching me in a moment where I would say we have to experience awe. A lot of our data suggests it's one of the most universal emotions. The vocalization of awe, whoa, that's really universal. Of course, logically, you could have a perfect life and be very happy without awe. You can imagine that.

But wow. I've taught happiness for 25 years. I often get the question, like, "What can I do to find happiness?" It gets really poignant, Brandon. When you're my age, and a parent comes to you and they say, "My teenage son is really suffering. What can I do?" I have to say, looking at the science of awe, that there's almost nothing better for us than finding a little dose of awe. It is good for your immune system. It elevates vagal tone, activation of the vagus nerve. It deactivates the default mode network, that ego's region of the brain. It makes you feel less stressed of daily hassles. You feel more connected to people. You reason better. I know you're really engaged in the study of scientific reasoning, and reasoning more generally. Awe helps you see things clearly and understand big pictures. When I look at these data, and I hear that question from somebody saying, like, "What do I give to my child," I always say, "Go find some awe with them. Start there."

Brandon: Have you ever encountered people talking about experiencing awe in relation to food? Has that ever come up to you? In your book, you talked about art and music and so on in nature, for sure. But has food ever come up as a source of—

Dacher: It's funny, you know. That's a really deep question. Because when we surveyed people what gives them awe — there are limitations to that survey; it's just one story from each person, et cetera — I came up with these eight wonders. It always aggravates people. Those eight categories that are referred to capture about 90%, 95% of the responses. It doesn't have things like money, iPhones, material purchases, sex, and food. I live in Berkeley, super food culture. Michael Pollan is a good friend. People are always offended. They're like, come on, you neuroscientists. Food. They're right. I mean, we did have some stories of "I had the best chocolate in the world," or, "I went backpacking. After backpacking, I got to go have a burrito."

Clearly, maybe our results speak to the fact that we've lost touch with the awe of food, which is interesting to think about. Then clearly, I think, had we done different kinds of research, we would have found that there are moments of food sharing and food rituals and certain foods that bring us awe. But it wasn't a real common one, so I don't talk about it. I apologize to those of you out there who love food.

Brandon: I was really curious about it. Some of the work I've been doing more recently is talking to people about encounters with beauty in their childhood. Invariably, there are stories of some experience of tasting something someone's grandmother made or whatever. That was just this powerful, transcendent experience. Those, I was really curious about that.

Dacher: Well, I think that's what Edmund Burke was getting at this idea that there are these sensory pleasures of beauty — a beautiful face, a rolling hills landscape, certain kinds of flowers, and certain tastes and senses. Burke didn't think you could feel awe through smell. I don't think that's true. Then he separated awe, which is really vast and powerful. I think there's some truth to that, that food may be about sensory pleasure and beauty as opposed to awe.

Brandon: Yeah, I've been thinking of it. I grew up Hindu, and I grew up going to temples. So, there are such sensory experiences, that sort of incense that's really strong and really sort of ethereal. Then you always get this prasad, which is usually a very sweet, intensely sweet offering that is given to the gods. The Indian sweets are just very, very sweet. So, for me, my early memories of encountering awe in relation to something spiritual, and to the sublime even, are tied to that sort of experience of smell and food.

Dacher: Remember, the modern world has lost touch with that, and the idea that food would be embedded with a spiritual culture like in Hinduism. Or, I was just in Bhutan. The incense as they burn around the temples, the juniper, that scent, is so intertwined with the sublime, like you said, Brandon. I've lost touch with that. Probably, a lot of our participants had. Maybe we can regain it.

Brandon: Well, let's talk about science and scientists. How might experiencing awe facilitate scientific inquiry? You've done some work on awe as a scientific emotion.

Dacher: Yeah, it is. You start talking like you are seriously the scientist. You and I are scientists. It's like awe is part of that story. Darwin and Frank Solloway got me to this. He's a Darwin scholar. He really grasped his theory of evolution through awe. At the end of Origin of Species, there's this passage where he awakens from a dream by a river, and he sees this tangled bank of life. There are all the forms of natural selection there of growth, and decay, and death, and natural selection. He's like, "Oh my god. This is the theory that accounts for life and evolving life."

How awe helps with science is, it opens our minds. That's been found. It makes us curious about things. It humbles us. We've got data on that. Jennifer Stellar, like awe makes us humble. I don't understand everything. More specifically to science, Sara Gottlieb and Tania Lombrozo and I, it makes us curious about science. It makes us curious about more complicated forms of causality. It makes us curious about change and evolution.

At the end of the book Awe, I tried to pull it all together and say, what awe does is it awakens us to this system's view of the world that everything is composed of systems, of interrelated processes that are working together. Sociological systems in society, economic systems, systems of sounds that make music, and systems of life and causal processes of biological forms. I think that's true, that that's the core to awe. It gives us that. It says, don't think so narrow and analytically; think holistically in terms of these big systems that are theories about life.

Brandon: That is the key aesthetic experience that most scientists we've studied and talked about, which is the ability to grasp the hidden order or the inner logic of systems. What is behind appearances? Yeah, that's really at the heart of — we're arguing that science is an aesthetic experience for that reason.

Dacher: I agree.

Brandon: In your own research, have there been any moments of awe that you've experienced?

Dacher: Oh, man. I love your idea that science is an aesthetic experience. I would encourage our readers if they haven't yet to read The Invention of Nature of Andrea Wulf, it's a spectacular book about this scientific period of romanticism, of Von Humboldt and others who learned as much about nature drawing it as deriving analytical statements about it. I've been lucky. Such great students, collaborators too.

Just to restrict it to awe, that looking up into trees makes us more likely to help a stranger. It just made me feel like that's so awesome. You look at the drawings of people. They draw their social networks when they're feeling awe. It just shows all this interconnectivity. What a neat measure of interconnectivity that [Yang Bai ?] came up with. I'm awestruck by goosebumps, and the different varieties of goosebumps and the chills, and how now young people use ASMR to experience the chills, and to cultivate that feeling.

I'm awestruck by the vagus nerve, the largest bundle of nerves in the mammalian nervous system that really looks like it is in part been shaped by evolution to engage with other people. That's amazing to me that you can find that in the body. So, I don't know. I feel when you study awe, it's both a responsibility and then a privilege to figure out the science that does it justice. That is like, this is amazing. I'm awestruck that a day on a river for veterans can reduce PTSD 30% in our research. Yeah, it's just been one awe-inspring adventure after another in the lab.

Brandon: Wow, that's great. Do you think that actually the practice of science or scientific research can deepen or facilitate our sense of awe in general, that scientists — not necessarily psychologists who study awe but other scientists — that the kind of knowledge or expertise one gains in their work can actually then open them to encountering awe in ways that others may not have access to?

Dacher: Yeah, I mean, we do science for many different reasons. It's a vast endeavor. People do science to make money, advance their standing in the world, but also out of curiosity. One of my favorite examples is, Newton and Descartes freaked out about rainbows. They're just like, "How in the world do rainbows exist?" They literally did some of their best physics, color theory math, to understand how it is that when light bends through water molecules, it turns into rainbows. That's curiosity and wonder that leads to a new view of the world.

I think, at its best, the scientific endeavor is about awe. It's about I don't know this. Are these cool tools, sophisticated tools? I can understand a phenomenon. Just like you said, I have an aesthetic experience of seeing of what underlies the perceived world. When I studied facial expression and learned how to code faces, all of a sudden, I saw so much in the face I didn't know existed.

When we studied human vocalization and all the ways in which we convey different emotions with the voice, I was astounded suddenly to hear things differently like music. I think a lot of scientists feel that way. The scientific method of deep observation — putting aside bias, opening your mind, and like you said, look for these big systems underlying what we perceive — it can be awe inspiring and make you almost spiritual. So, I think that's a terrific question, Brandon. I hope you study it scientifically. I know you are.

Brandon: Yeah, well, among scientists anyway. So, we're trying to figure out the role of awe. One of the things we do find is that they seem to be a couple of different pathways through which awe shapes engagement in scientific work. One of them seems to be through wonder. As you're saying, it spurs them on to want to know more. But there's also another path which seems to be more kind of — it's actually, to some degree, disengages them. I don't know if that's a more contemplative path. Does it sort of somehow make you pause? Rather than driving you forward, it makes you want to go, whoa, what's going on here, and to even savor and to rest in what you've experienced. I wonder about what you think about the relationship between awe and action on the one hand, and contemplation on the other.

Dacher: Yeah, we don't know a lot scientifically about that. I try to stay close to what we have found with replicable science. We've used the word destabilize. I think Darwin was destabilized by everything that he was observing in many different realms that said the world wasn't just created. That was it. It's always changing. It took him 30 years to start writing and publishing his books.

I do feel that alongside the energized, active, goal-oriented wonder of figuring out what rainbows do and how they work, there is this deeper contemplation. I think you're wise to use that word, like, how is it that you can account for all these different organic forms for Darwin? How is it that for a lot of people can account for just inexplicable experiences, things that you've seen or heard?

I think that that would be a very interesting area in this world. That will be a really interesting area of inquiry. It's to study longitudinally when awe so destabilizes you, that it leads you to really reflect and contemplate hard about your default assumptions. Then figure out what are the forms of inquiry that will lead you to new views. A lot of people have probably felt that personally. I felt that losing my brother. I was like, I just still felt him around me. So, how can I make sense of his continued presence? I think it'd be interesting to chart that scientifically.

Brandon: Yeah, thank you. One of the things I was surprised by is that the scientists we talked to reported that they encountered awe rather infrequently in their scientific work. Now, it's likely that they encounter awe in nature and other places more frequently. But I was curious as to what it is about the nature of scientific work that leads many to say that, "I've never encountered awe in my work." Is it something to do with the culture of scientific work and research culture, and the narrow specialization, and having to spend all your time getting grant funding or publish or perish? What do you think of the culture of science and of academia more generally today does to our pursuit of awe and wonder in science?

Dacher: That's a very poignant question. I do feel the academic culture and the scientific disciplines within it have become hyper competitive — publishing more than ever, grant pressures more than ever. It's just different than even when I was in graduate school, just the demands. Those will curtail the open-ended wondering about things, the wondering intellectually that you need that will give you awe. So, I think it's worrisome.

I am more in touch with conversations about high schools and college students, and the stress they feel. We've lost the wonder and awe partially in those educational contexts. I think you could probably make the same case for what's happened in scientific lab cultures. Then the successful productive labs probably do things that encourage awe, to be open in discovery-oriented research and go into new fields, et cetera. Yeah, I think it's worrisome.

Brandon: Are there any things that you've done, that your research has led you to do in your own lab as a leader, to incorporate new practices or cultivate new practices that foster attentiveness to awe? Is that part of how you approach your team?

Dacher: I was lucky for various reasons, how I was mentored. I always go to what's unknown in my research, for the most part. I never start with a measure or paradigm and then test it. I always go to what's unknown. Then if you want to use the language, I am drawn to mystery. What is awe? How do you study it scientifically? Why did compassion evolve? How does social class influence our minds? Why do people laugh? What's the blush mean? So, I'm drawn to mysteries.

I think I was lucky in that the science of emotion has these tools that allow you to study mysterious things like awe. That's the first principle for me in science, in our lab. It's like, what's unknown? What do you find mysterious and care about? Then that's what you should study. Sometimes it fails. You're like, you can't figure out how to measure it or study it. So, that's one.

I think there's something about being phenomenon-driven rather than paradigm-driven. Paradigm is necessarily narrow and limit your observations of things which you need to do. If you're phenomenon-driven: wow, what is laughter? I mean, what is this thing? What's that warmth in the chest? Oh, it's the vagus nerve. Then you just got to go observe and describe. So, I think there's something about that, that helps with keeping awe alive as well.

Brandon: That's fascinating. Some of the things you've talked about in your book in relation to awe, things like moral beauty, and then the nurturing of big ideas or providing opportunities to have this Durkheimian collective effervescence. Can those be cultivated in research environments, do you think?

Dacher: Yeah, well, I think you would find they organically emerge in strong research environments, that we're food sharing. We're doing walks together. We have camp outs. We throw out big ideas. Let's talk about a big idea. We rely on other cultural forms of wisdom, of art, and music to spur thought.

It's interesting. You drew the parallel between science and an aesthetic experience. You might even push it like Jon Haidt and I did to say a spiritual experience. They all have this awe structure to them. Maybe great research environments are like great museums or like great churches, where they bring all this stuff together and they say, "Turn, loose your imagination." I believe that. I really believe — when I teach at Berkley, my undergrads, they're hearing some awe music. I'm showing them images. We're reading some poetry. They're looking at paintings. They're contemplating quotes from great thinkers, Gandhi, that are not necessarily science but part of what we should be thinking about.

Brandon: Well, let's talk about awe and spirituality for a second. What is the relationship between the two? Are they the same thing? Does awe open someone up to spiritual experiences? Does being spiritual make you more attentive to awe? What is that relationship?

Dacher: Ironically, we don't know that much. We should know more. This was challenging for me to write in the book. Because I've studied a lot of spirituality but I haven't had big mystical spiritual experiences. I wasn't really religious at all. But when we gathered those narratives from around the world, people write a lot about spiritual experiences with encounters with the divine, the primary good in the universe and what's spiritual, or spirit.

I think, to your question, there's a form of awe that is spiritual. We call it mystical awe in honor of William James, who said, the quarter religion — like Durkheim felt, like Emerson in some ways, like a lot of indigenous traditions — is the feeling of being in relation to what you think is the divine, what's primary and good and transcendent in the universe. 81% of Americans, survey research finds, feel that. Some of them feel it in the church or reading a sacred text. A lot of people feel it vis a vis nature. Like, this is spirit. So, awe is one of many spiritual emotions. You could feel horror, or bliss, or love, or compassion. But awe is this I am in relation to what I think is the spirit of life.

Brandon: Do you think that there are preconditions for people to be open to experiencing awe or even allowing awe to turn into this spiritual openness? Are there conditions under which people would say, "Well, I'm not going there. I feel this, but I don't really want to go with how this feeling is going. I want to shut this down?" Have you found anything of that sort?

Dacher: Yeah, one of the preconditions — no one that I know of has studied this really well, Brandon. It's a terrific question, which is that I think Piercarlo Valdesolo has a little bit of evidence. It's that experiences of awe make you more likely to see almost supernatural type patterns in the world, systems that are supernatural that organize reality. But that's not quite great getting to your question of like, are there these conditions in life that make me open to mystical awe and becoming spiritual? Psychedelics produce awe and make you have spiritual experiences. But we don't know yet. Does that persist, and that you become a more spiritual being believing in these divine forces?

Another precondition to think about that's interesting is just, in general, people are really open to experience, curious, and love big ideas. They tend to feel more awe. Maybe people are open to experience tend to embrace spirituality more. So, we don't know. Maybe people are growing up in a more traditional religious context — the Hindus context, the Christian context. Maybe they are more spiritual through awe. That's why the science of awe is useful. It starts to help us provide accounts for these big questions like the one you just asked.

Brandon: Yeah, I'm wondering whether it's some people's identities. I'm a materialist, or I'm a rationalist. I don't really believe in this fluffy stuff. Then you encounter something, or you experience something. What do you do with that? Do you shut that down? I wonder about the role of humility, as well. I think you find that awe, you say, is a cause of humility. But I wonder if there's a certain humility needed even to be able to open yourself to experiencing something that you don't quite understand.

Dacher: You're pointing to all these great hypotheses. I hope our audience appreciates. That's why we talk, too. It's to have open-ended hypotheses, which is, there are a lot of scientists who are atheists. There are a lot of scientists who believe in spirit. Maybe awe is the separator, that those scientists are open to awe. They suddenly see it. Wow, there's a spirit in the brain that's beyond the neurons. Lots of deep experiences of awe, for me, have made me more open to that. Wow. Maybe the biological account of things just doesn't do it all.

Brandon: Right. I was reminded. Very recently, I met Richard Dawkins and had a two-minute conversation with him. It was fascinating. Because now he essentially considers himself spiritual.

Dacher: No way.

Brandon: Because of experiences of awe, he's profoundly moved by music and poetry in ways that he can't quite account for. He still hates religion and hates God and think it's bad and evil.

Dacher: Of course.

Brandon: But at least, there's this avenue, I think, precisely through awe of openness to something else, that may still fit within a completely materialist framework. But it's interesting, nonetheless. What is one way in which you would recommend our listeners cultivate awe in their daily lives? How do we better attend to it, nurture it, nourish it?

Dacher: Thanks for asking that. It's funny, because we have these stereotypes of awe, like it's rare. It takes a lot of money. It takes really extraordinary things. Our work shows all those are just stereotypes, that actually it's common. It's around you. Just open your eyes.

So, we've tested a lot of these. You can go on a walk looking for awe, and you'll enjoy many of its benefits. You can just contemplate people who really inspire you morally. That will benefit you. For me, Gandhi or Toni Morrison. You can listen to music with intention. It's an interesting — I love asking people this question like, "What is music that gives you the chills, and why? Go listen to it. Just feel your body. Take it in. What is that telling you?" People will start to be like, "Oh my God. I love this form of rap because it's about social justice, and it teaches you."

So, we have a new paper soon to be published. Kids in art museums will feel awe and enjoy its benefits. Get outside. Stand near trees. Look at the night sky. We're really good at it. I think our misunderstandings of awe got in the way. We've got to return to it. It's really good for you to find some awe.

Brandon: Awesome. Is there one big takeaway you want readers to glean from your book?

Dacher: For me, it's really about everyday awe. Descartes felt that wonder was a basic emotion. Our research says it's a basic emotion. Einstein said it is the fundamental emotion. Jane Goodall felt that it was, in some ways, the most human of emotions. I agree this is, as the contemplative types, the Buddhist type would say, the Hinduist type would say, this is a default state of the mind. It's to be feel wonder and awe about the world and everything. I think we just got to get back to it. You don't have to hop on a plane to go find it. There's everyday awe. We just got to go get it.

Brandon: Great. Well, thank you, Dacher. This has been fantastic. Is there any place we can direct our listeners and viewers to your work? We'll certainly put a link to your new book. Are there other places we can direct them to?

Dacher: Yeah, my website dacherkeltner.com.

Brandon: Okay, perfect. Well, thank you. This has been such a pleasure.

Dacher: Oh, for me, too, Brandon. Thank you for the incredible work you're doing. I will be thinking about science as an aesthetic experience. It's a great idea.

Brandon: Great. Thank you.


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