Awe in a Square Mile: The Idea

Awe occurs in response to diverse stimuli: threat, beauty, ability, virtue, and supernatural phenomena. Our response to awe can vary; holding similarities with gratitude, elevation, wonder and love, but also confusion, fear and dread. Both ‘awesome’ and ‘awful’ find their etymological roots in awe.

Negev Desert, Israel. [Image: Ruth Wilson, 2019]

Negev Desert, Israel. [Image: Ruth Wilson, 2019]

In April, I visited Israel and stood at the edge of the desert. In response to nature’s defiant and unapologetic beauty my sense of time was reconfigured and I was truly present as I experienced awe. I felt as if I had sufficient curiosity to over come my cowardice; i felt compelled to step forward in my life and in the doing so, I would redefine myself.

However, I also found myself thinking that, when in the massive, the places of natural beauty, that the environment was doing all the work. It raised a question for me - how practical was it for me to experience awe in the simple; in the mundane.

I wondered where the awe was in my day to day life?

Seek out experiences that give you goosebumps.

Such is the advice of Dacher Keltner, one of the foremost theorists and scholars of awe, who believes that this is a long-overlooked emotion. He suggests that “what the science of awe is suggesting is that opportunities for awe surround us, and their benefits are profound.”

At that moment, Awe in a Square Mile was born. A simple idea to search for the ‘goosebumps’ in my local environment - in my life - and I would share what I found, alongside the benefits.

Ruth Wilson