Awe Without Understanding It

  • John Ehrenfeld

    January 3, 2023 at 6:54 pm

    I though I has added a link to the article. Here it is:

    • Jeff Verge

      January 4, 2023 at 7:31 pm

      I read that one too, and wasn’t entirely sure what to make of it. While it doesn’t talk about brains, it does say a lot of the right things. I noted near the end a bit about the issue of narrow focus, which was one thing that’s rarer to see these days. I wondered if the article was being implicit, since even if NYT was going to take on the divided brain theory this wouldn’t be the best place to do it.

      Overall though, whenever I see a somewhat scientific foray into the benefits of Awe and Wonder, I want to congratulate them for discovering what was once an everyday common understanding. Upon finishing the article my response was mostly a shrug.

      I want to see Iain’s work anchored in a science framework, otherwise I think it’ll be dismissed by many as Woo-adjacent.

      That’s my take…

  • Don Salmon

    January 3, 2023 at 7:18 pm

    Hi John – good timing. I read that article as well as a related one in The Atlantic.

    I’ve followed the work of the author, Dacher Keltner, for some years. I’m sure he’s aware of Iain’s work, but you know how difficult it is for Iain to explain his work to people who’ve never come across it. The “sophisticated” audiences of the Times and the Atlantic would, I imagine, reject it immediately if the hemisphere hypothesis was included.

    I find it, personally, best to avoid it in many of my live or written presentations, preferring instead to talk about narrow, objective, detached attention (LH) and wide, immersed attention (RH). Does the trick without all that need for explanations.

    In fact, in terms of practice and experience, I’m not sure that Iain has ever come up with a definitive response to the question, how does this neuroscience help me practically?

    I do have an answer though. For many if not most people who feel that “psychological” (or worse, contemplative or meditative) practices are somehow vague and not enough to deal with things like depression, anxiety, etc that allegedly have a “real” “physical” basis, talking in terms of neuroscience is a big help.

    When I did work with chronic pain patients, BOY did it help to begin by explaining the gate theory and how the cerebral cortex and subcortical regions of the brain work together to produce nerve impulses and chemicals which affect pain responses in all areas of the body. After 1 or 2 sessions of reminding people of the “physical” correlates of experience, then I was free to talk of instinctive, emotional and mental responses to pain without having to bring in the brain again!

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