Are you Awe Deprived?
This article first appeared on HoneyGood: Are You Awe Deprived? - Honey Good®
While on a recent visit to see grandchildren, I was working my daily crossword puzzle when Nora, our 11-year-old, walked in the kitchen. She heaved her heavy school backpack onto the kitchen table.
I smiled, then looked back down at my puzzle: a three letter word for ‘stunned wonderment’ .” I filled in the squares A- W -E.
“Nora,” I asked, “Were you in awe of anything today?”
“What does that mean?” She asked.
“Well, Nora, according to my crossword puzzle, it means stunned wonderment.”
She wrinkled her nose.
You know, like when you are amazed at something. Or when you see something so spectacular, it takes your breath away.
I repeated the question, “So, Were you in awe of anything today?”
“No”, she responded.
“Well, that sounds about right,” I continued. “Because I read an article a few days ago that said our society is not experiencing as much awe these days.”
“Hmmm,” she muttered, pulling out her homework.
I continued, “But it’s not because there aren’t things to be in awe over…it’s just that we don’t pay attention.”
“Interesting,” she said, sounding not interested at all.
“I wonder if that’s really true?” I said as if speaking to myself. “I think I’ll try an experiment. Hey, Nora, Do you want to join me? How about we challenge ourselves to pay more attention and see if we find more awe in our lives?”
Nora shrugged her shoulders. “Sure.”
Awe Deprivation: A Sign of the Times?
You know, there is something about taking on challenges that piques my interest. I began digging; looking more into this new phenomenon — A lack of awe in our lives.
I was surprised to find a plethora of information.
My research into the concept of awe is pulling up some pretty interesting stuff.
Did you know that there is a clinical name for this diminished occurrence of awe? It’s referred to as awe deprivation.
I didn’t realize that awe was such a hot topic. And despite centuries of philosophical fascination, I learned that awe has only been studied properly in the past 20 years.
Psychological scientists are just now starting to learn about its importance and the impact of the diminishing lack of it in our lives.
The Impact of Experiencing AweHere are some findings about the positive impact of regularly experiencing Awe in our lives:
A Story of Awe
And speaking of positive impacts, I read about William Shatner (Capt. James T Kirk; on the original Star Trek TV series) traveling on Jeff Bezos’s rocket. When Shatner rocketed from earth, he was the oldest person in history at 90 years old to journey into space.
When he emerged from the space capsule, Shatner was surrounded by the media and he was clearly shaken. Here were his words.
“In a way, it’s indescribable,” he said. “Everybody in the world needs to do this, everybody in the world needs to see the. . .” His words lost traction, and then he added, “It was unbelievable. Unbelievable.”
Fighting back tears, Shatner told Bezos, “What you have given me is the most profound experience I can imagine. I’m so filled with emotion about what just happened. I just… it’s extraordinary. It’s extraordinary.”
And then he added, “I hope I never recover from this. I hope that I can maintain what I feel now. I don’t want to lose it.”
It seems Shatner was expressing the emotional response of what apparently, few of us experience anymore. It’s a feeling that we were designed to enjoy, don’t you think? But sadly, many of us don’t.
Why Aren’t We Experiencing Awe?
I began to wonder, if experiencing awe was so good for us, then why weren’t we seeking it out? What was standing in our way?
HERE ARE SEVERAL EXPLANATIONS THE SCIENTISTS HAVE FOUND TO EXPLAIN WHY WE AREN’T HAVING MORE ‘AWES’ IN OUR LIVES:
So, if we have lost it, forgotten how to connect to it, or choose not to, what then can we do to gain our sense of awe back?
Well, Fortunately, we don’t have to all be catapulted up into space like William Shatner.
Jonah Paquette, author of the book Awestruck: How Embracing Wonder Can Make You Happier, Healthier, and More Connected, describes numerous ways we can incorporate awe into our daily routines.
Tips for Experiencing More Awe in Our Lives
SLOW DOWN AND LINGER
Create space for awe to emerge in the, sometimes seemingly mundane, chores. While you water your plants, tenderly check for new leaves and buds. While eating, consider the time and energy the farmer used in order for you to enjoy the food in front of you.
By slowing down and appreciating the patience and effort involved in habitual processes, Paquette assures us, we will find ourselves awe-inspired.
INCORPORATE AND BE MORE IN TOUCH WITH YOUR SENSES
Tune in deeply to your awareness of color, texture, scent, and sound. So do you suppose that’s why God gave us 5 senses….so we could use them? “
We continue to hear about how the mighty pull of social media and its algorithms fixes our gaze downwards. Dacher Joseph Keltner, professor of psychology at University of California, Berkely, shares some of his lab’s findings: “We recently interviewed 320,500 people from 26 countries about what brings them awe – and no one mentioned their smartphone.”
TAKE AWE WALKS OUT IN NATURE
The evidence supporting the link between spending time outdoors, experiencing awe, and lower stress levels “has become so persuasive that many physicians have begun to ‘prescribe’ time spent in nature or in green spaces, the way one might typically prescribe a new medication,” says Paquette.
START KEEPING A JOURNAL OF THINGS THAT ‘AWED YOU
’Writing down your experiences of awe can give you a deeper appreciation and renewed sense of wonder.
OBSERVE PEOPLE WITH UNIQUE ABILITIES
Watch someone do something you find remarkable.
LISTEN TO MUSIC THAT MOVES YOU
Or better yet go to a live performance.
And here are a few other tips I have been trying out:
Read – Immerse yourself in a real-life story about someone that is awe-inspiring.
Try understanding a new concept and recapture your curiosity – I’ve been studying a lot about the brain lately…. Whoa…now that organ is awesome!
Ask others what makes them feel awe – My sister feels awe when she hikes up in the desert mountains and sees all the beautiful wildflowers.
Go places that you can expect to be awed- Places like the beach, Grand Canyon or an art museum.
Look at life through the lens of a microscope- Let that tiny little ant carrying the breadcrumb on his back, stop you in your tracks. Did you know an ant can lift more than 40 times his weight? That’s amazing!
Look at life through the lens of a telescope – Do more star gazing and moon bathing. Do you still make a wish on a falling star?
Hang out with children – If you have been around a young child lately you are quickly reminded of the many wonders and miracles in our world.
And speaking of children…
After returning from our grandchild visit, I spoke to Nora on the phone. I asked her if she remembered our conversation about awe.
She said yes. “In fact, I watched a softball game on TV and someone’s pet parrot got loose and landed on the umpire’s head!”
I chuckled. “Seriously! Can you imagine what the umpire thought? Yep, that sounds like an awe moment to me.”
She continued. “And then yesterday Dad had to run to the pharmacy to pick up his medication and when he got home, he threw the sack of pills on the kitchen counter. We had to hurry to get to softball practice in time.”
“When we got home the pills were strewn everywhere and the paper bag was in shreds. So, we had to rush both dogs to the Vet since we didn’t know which one of them had done it, or how many they had eaten and they both looked guilty! Right before the Vet was getting ready to do an expensive procedure the black lab threw up all over the place. He even threw up the paper bag! “
“Whoa…that must have been a sight!” I laughed. I can just see you standing there in stunned wonderment!
Are you awe deprived?
When was the last time you stood in stunned amazement; when your breath was taken away and you felt that extraordinary sense of wonder? I would like to challenge you to make use of some of the tips I’ve written about. I’m working on it as well.
We begin, as we do with any change in our lives; with attention, awareness, and intention.
Let’s ask and reflect on these questions:
Where and when am I missing out on experiencing more awe in my life?
Would I like to have more of it?
One day, while visiting one of our grandchildren, an 8-year-old, I stepped out the back door to locate her. She was perched snuggly up in an oak tree, reading; as if that’s where everyone might choose to spend their afternoon.
I watched the expressions on her face while the sun touched her hair. A breeze came through and seemed to wisp up some fairy dust as she escaped to her world filled with enchantment, dragons, and princesses. That same mystical world where Alice really does have a conversation with a rabbit, Pete spends an entire day with the dragon, and Clara actually is swept off her feet by the nutcracker.
I can’t think of a place I’d rather be than having a front row seat to this great unfolding miracle; a child loving to read.
Having Everything Within Reach
"He that loves reading has everything within his reach".—William Goodwin
Isn’t that what we wish for our children and our grandchildren, for them to have everything within their reach?
The love of reading will give them the advantages, the opportunities, the preparation and the training that will enable them to go out and succeed. Books offer this to our kids and expand their world.
The love of reading opens doors not only for our children but for all of us.
Research shows that regular reading:
The Statistics About Reading Habits in Children Are DismalAnd yet, sadly, I continue to hear about the decline in the enjoyment of reading.
According to the U.S. Department of Education, 67% of fourth grade students are below proficiency in reading.
Dianna Gioia, chairman of the National Education Association, explains it this way, “As our kids read less, they read less well. And when they read less well, this has very serious consequences, not just to their academic performance, but to their economic performance and ultimately to their ability to connect with a civic life and political life.”
What are we to do with this dismal research?
Neil Postman, an American author, educator, and cultural critic, further warns us of the consequences of the fallout in reading. “A mode of thinking is being lost,” he laments, “We are losing a sort of psychic habit, a logic, a sense of complexity, an ability to spot contradictions and even falsity.”
Postman believes this loss is now being felt in our cultural activities and in our politics, as well as in our children’s SAT scores, and that it could get worse. But of course, such prophecies are delivered in print, so no one pays much heed.
Can We Turn the Table and Leave a Lasting Legacy?
Shall we sit ideally by, silently watching as the reading, the thinking and the heartbeat of our future generations flatline?
Are we really okay with that? Are we satisfied to leave behind a generation of children that don’t love reading?
"Everyone must leave something behind when he dies, my grandfather said. A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way…. It doesn’t matter what you do, he said, so long as you change something from the way it was before you touched it into something that’s like you after you take your hands away…"
—Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
So then, what will keep us – yes, you and me – from being a moving force that transfuses a love of reading back into the next generation?
I know, I know… there are many things we take notice of that are not as they used to be and, quite frankly, not to our liking. We talk about the ‘good old days’ like our grandparents did. And far be it for us to intrude, right? So we go to our corners, make ourselves smaller and quieter and mind our own business… Far be it for us to put our noses in others’ business!
Well, I say bologna to that! I believe it’s time for those of us who know better to do better. I think we should take a stand!
The Solution? Read to Children
"One of the greatest gifts adults can give to their offspring and to their society is to read to children."—Carl Sagan
There are things we can do to fix this reading ailment, for the betterment of ourselves, the younger generation and the future generations to come. And who better to lead the charge and the challenge than us – those who have benefitted from our love of reading in the past and continue to reap the benefits today.
I want to resurrect this dying trend and breathe life back into what we know equips our children to be active participants in creating a better future world.
I spoke with a children’s librarian, Susan Clark. She, like many others, would love to see us inject our grandkids with our own sense of delight and wonder we receive from reading.
And although you may not have a grandchild yet, or one living nearby; there is a child out there that needs you. Volunteer to make a difference in a child’s life. Check out opportunities to read at libraries, schools, hospitals, bookstores or community events.
"You can find magic wherever you look. Sit back and relax, all you need is a book."
In my previous article, I wrote about the lack of reading habits – or lack of love toward reading – in the younger generations. Our grandchildren don’t seem to have a healthy exposure and/or regard toward books which, in turn, inhibits the development of their critical thinking capabilities. Naturally, the whole society will suffer in future years.
I spoke with a children’s librarian, Susan Clark. She, like many others, would love to see us inject our grandkids with our own sense of delight and wonder we receive from reading. As well as sharing some of her thoughts and reading tips, Mrs. Clark also suggested some great book choices.
Read to a Child
Regardless of whether you have grandchildren or you read to a non-related child, here are a few examples of “grandparent” books that would be fun to share.
Let the Child Choose the Book
Research shows that providing encouragement for children of all ages to enjoy books they choose to read will help them discover the power and joy of reading,” said Scholastic’s chief academic officer Francie Alexander. “These tactics will also help to motivate kids to read more books, which will improve their skills and open a world of possibilities for them in the future.”
Let the Adult Choose a Book
Share your favorite childhood book and talk about what the book meant to you. I’d love to see grandparents reading their old favorites, often overlooked, which may or may not include titles like:
"You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read to a child."
Let the Child Choose a Place
Ask the child where they want to read with you. Cozy up on the sofa, lay on the bed, prop up pillows on the floor, squeeze in the rocking chair together, bask in the sun in lawn chairs, crawl under a table, in a tent or huddle in a closet with a flashlight, climb up in the tree house or go to the local park.
Let the Child Choose the Way
Solo reading (child reads the entire story), partner reading (child reads, then adult reads) or adult reading (adult only reads). Taking turns with your grandkids reading a page at a time is a fun and helpful idea to encourage reading.
It can be done with any book, but here is a series just for that:
Read Books About the Child’s Interests
Kids love to read about books that allow them to learn more about what they are already excited about:
Read Books Where Grandparents Can Share Their Own Interests
Bring a Book Back as a Souvenir from Your Travels
What a great tradition for your grandchild to look forward to each time you take a trip.
"You’ll never be bored when you try something new. There’s really no limit to what you can do. "—Dr. Seuss
Make It a Discovery Day-
Celebrate with a trip to the library or bookstore together and discover books that are relevant, fun and magical for your grandchild.
Help your grandchild find a book that helps them understand more about where they live and where they come from. Find a book that helps the little reader learn more about the community they live in:
Start a Book Club with a Child Get each of you a copy of a book to read. Discuss what you learned from it. You can use Face Time, or Skype if need be.
My granddaughter (on the East Coast) and I (on the West Coast) are doing just that. She chose the book A Dog's Purpose by W Bruce Cameron
How About a Career Day?
Reading is deeply formative experience that shows your child the kind of person he or she wants to be. What does he/she want to be when he/she grows up? Reading helps them to discover more about their opportunities.
"The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more that you learn, the more places you’ll go.—Dr. Seuss
Take a Field Trip
You and your child could check out Alex Rodriguez’s book Out of the Ballpark and then spend the afternoon together at a local baseball game.
Or take a trip to the ballet after reading Degas and the Little Dancer from Edgar Degas series, Anholt’s Artists Books.
This could also be a great opportunity for the child to bring a friend along… then you are inspiring more kids!
Give the Gift of a Book
What better present for Christmas, birthdays or ‘just cuz’ days.
A monthly subscription that comes in the mail can be a real treat for a child. Why not purchase a gift that ‘keeps on giving’?
Be a Role Model for Your Child
Let the children see you reading often and hear you talking about the books you read.
Listen to Audio Books While Traveling
Here are some ideas for audio books that the entire family might enjoy:
Read a Book Together, Then Watch the Movie
Two of my granddaughters, their mother and I just read Wonder by R.J. Palacio. We then followed it up with a movie night (and yes… popcorn included!)
Start Your Own Neighborhood Reading Group
Team up with other Grannies that support your mission. Find a good meeting spot, talk to some parents and send out some flyers with date and time.
"Spread Books Throughout Your HomeFill your house with books, in all the crannies and all the nooks."—Dr. Seuss
When grandkids come to visit let them find books by their bed side, car, bathroom, back porch. Start pursuing the garage sales, library sales and discounted book shops in your area.
Read All Kinds of Books
Pick a variety of books: fiction, non-fiction, poetry, plays, comic books, puzzle books and fun fact books.
Create Your Own Little Free Library Box
Build a creative library box for the children in your neighborhood that will entice them and encourage them to share books with one another.
Let’s work together to breathe life back into this dying pleasure and past-time.
Although if can feel like a mountain in front of us, what better gift to leave the children, and their children, and their children a legacy of the love of reading.
"You’re off to Great Places! Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting, So… get on your way!"—Dr. Seuss
Here’s a great website for finding other age-appropriate books for kids: http://childrensbooks.about.com/