Awe, "reset button" for the mind

The mind-as-computer is a worn and outdated metaphor, dismissed by neuroscientists and philosophers alike because the brain "computes" in about the same fashion as bread rises.

Its organic processes are infinitely more productive though because the synthesis of thought and feeling that occurs there is not solely dispositive, but expositive.

The mind is capable of great leaps beyond the evidence. There is one sense, however, where the metaphor of mind-as-computer does work. Ben Casnocha, quoting Jon Haidt’s book The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, points out that awe is "the mind's reset button."

Awe acts like a kind of reset button: it makes people forget themselves and their petty concerns. Awe opens people to new possibilities, values, and directions in life. Awe is one of the emotions most closely linked to the hive switch, along with collective love and collective joy. People describe nature in spiritual terms — as both Emerson and Darwin did — precisely because nature can trigger the hive switch and shut down the self, making you feel that you are simply a part of a whole.

The emphasis is Casnocha's. He mentions the sight of a broad expanse of rolling hills, a walk in the woods and stargazing as sources for a reset. I couldn't agree more. The night sky is one of my go to sources for awe, principally because it introduces the much needed variable of rest and reverence into an always-on culture.


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