Awe is imbued with the power to stop time, can increase our sense of well-being and our willingness to help others, and has been described by Emily Dickinson as a source of both fear and of its remove in a letter from 1883: "I work to drive the awe away, yet awe impels the work."
It can be found alone on a cool still evening before a crystalline sky or experienced among thousands, or it can find you in the electric realization one very early Tuesday morning that you will always, always love the blinking, bloodied and helpless form whose searching eyes, darting anxiously from one impossible fact to the next in a hospital room, pause ever so briefly, unknowingly, before your face.
In his latest video, "The Biological Advantage of Being Awestruck," Jason Silva connects awe to our biology, wondering, in awe, how we came to be so fortunate as to contemplate our very existence on this mantle swept along by Newton's laws, and yet, and yet, somehow buoyed by the unreasonable sense that it all means something. Using the Hubble telescope, which itself only sees 6 percent of the universe directly available to our senses, he describes how, in a surprisingly literal sense, the act of seeing through that instrument "mainlines the whole of time through the optic nerve." Enjoy.
And awe at the IdeaFestival? It's that amazing conclusion halfway through the latest presentation that a problem you've been thinking about forever and ever has an analog in what you're hearing that very moment. "Oh! Oh! Oh!
So that's it."