Encountering Vastness


Awesomeness Is Everything by Matthew Hutson
The Atlantic (Jan/Feb 2017), February 1, 2017

In a small but powerful article with far-reaching implications for education and life, Matthew Hutson overviews recent research on awe. The interdisciplinarity of his findings is striking for educators, as awe offers itself to our imaginations in every possible curricular and co-curricular area of study. Furthermore, Hutson connects (across time and space) these recent findings to the ideas of Edmund Burke’s sublime, Sigmund Freud’s oceanic feelings, and Abraham Maslow’s peak experiences, an interdisciplinary thrill in itself. Encountering vastness such that we struggle to comprehend, he explains, increases generosity, makes time “feel more plentiful,” and “just might be a prescription for world peace.” The range of possibilities for awe-inspirations both in and beyond schools is itself awe-inspiring; Hutson writes, “A waterfall might inspire awe; so could childbirth, or a scene of devastation.” Reminding us of the physicality of awe (its triggers as well as its effects), Hutson’s piece will affirm and renew educators’ commitments to active and experiential learning. The “study of studies” primes us for connections to brain researchlearning schema, and enduring understandings for our students. Apparently astronauts experience greater universalism, “the belief in an interconnected humanity,” something to bear in mind as we design courses and learning experiences at every level. 

Submitted By: Meghan Tally, Windward School, Los Angeles, CA

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