Awe Kinda Makes us Go "Awwww"!

Why do we support the Greater Good Science Center?

After hearing over and over about the wonderful research that the Greater Good Science Center at UC Berkeley was doing on wellness and happiness, Gaia and I knew that it was the organization that we wanted to support with our business.  Our name, Greek Happy, was specifically chosen because we were founded during a particularly unhappy time (the pandemic) and we wanted to do our small part to promote happiness as a way to give back (a proven method for feeling happier, by the way).

Fast forward to 2023 and the Co-Director of the Greater Good Science Center, Professor Dacher Keltner, publishes his book on "Awe." His studies had him turning to the writings of mystics about encounters with the divine, to anthropologists who had accounts of awe found in music, art, and dance, and to treatments of the 'holy, the sublime, the supernatural, the sacred, and "peak experiences" that people might describe with words like "flow,"  "joy," "bliss," or even "enlightenment.'

Dacher Keltner and his book on Awe

Professor Keltner and his long-time collaborator from New York University, Jonathan Haidt, began studying the little-studied subject of awe twenty years ago and came up with a definition of awe:

"Awe is the feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends your current understanding of the world."

I was lucky to catch the Professor's discussion of awe and his book by the same name at the Bay Area Book Festival where he was interviewed by Shawn Taylor who asked probing questions about Keltner's work on awe over a 20-year period and the fascinating stories his research uncovered.

After his talk, I stood in a long line to ask Professor Keltner to sign his book. I was so awe-struck that I could barely formulate a sentence.  And, it felt gratuitous after hearing these amazing stories about the vastness of awe to tell him about how my small business contributes to his work. It just didn't feel right.

I guess that's what awe does for us - it takes us outside of ourselves to feel the larger threads that connect humanity, where we're not so focused on our petty, little selves. Instead, I muttered something about how I was buying one of his books as a gift 'because we could all use a little more awe in our lives.'  "Tell me about it!" he said.

Professor Keltner was interviewed on KQED Radio after that, and I found this talk awe-inspiring, as well. But equally as awe-inspiring were comments by listeners who called in to share their stories of awe. Their stories were something akin to poetry. 

Here's the link to listen to the KQED public radio interview of Professor Keltner by Mina Kim on the subject of  awe. Be forewarned, though: it may give you goosebumps!

Lately, I've been finding awe pretty close to home - in my garden.  What's giving you goosebumps and awe these days? 

Greek Happy Garden of Awe

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