Encouraging Goodness: How Moral Actions are ‘Awe-Inspiring’

I’ve written before on the downstream effects of small any seemingly insignificant acts of goodness. Through our deeply interconnected world, we can never fully appreciate how our actions will impact others and our broader communities.

Recent research being done on the science of awe-inspiring moral behaviour has begun to validate some of these claims. In his latest book Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How It Can Transform Your Life, the psychology professor Dacher Keltner explores the latest science behind the causes and consequences of experiencing awe.

While many of us have experienced these ecstatic and ephemeral moments throughout our lives, Keltner defines awe as a feeling that goes beyond or transcends our current understanding of reality. Whether its gazing out into the horizon on a summers day or marveling at the miracle of a newborn child, awe connects us to something greater than ourselves.

Awe can open up the door to new frontiers allowing us to break through the mold of rigid patterns of thought. Our self-interested preoccupations seem insignificant. Egoistical desires diminish.

Keltner documents the many health benefits of awe ranging from physiological (slows heart rate and deepens breathing) to psychological (reducing negative self-talk).

Although it is common to think of awe being associated with nature or the arts, there is one area of interest in Keltner’s work I want to zero in on – moral beauty. These are actions of selflessness, virtue and goodness. They need not be necessarily heroic acts worthy of ‘news’ per say, but ones which are played out in our day to day lives.

Keltner’s research demonstrated that after surveying individuals in different countries, cultures and religions, acts of moral goodness was one of the main reasons that caused people to feel awe. Acts of kindness such as helping strangers, providing for those in need of financial need or even reading about our spiritual role models all led to more awe.

Witnessing the selflessness of others can provide us with hope and inspire us to take action ourselves. These types of actions remind us that our wellbeing and contentment is not a merely individualistic affair. It is deeply intertwined to the prosperity of our networks and communities. Everyone living in a society relies on the work of others in the broader economy.

We don’t have to wait for moments of awe to arise in our lives. We can pursue awe through purposeful and active engagement in the world.

It begins with cultivating our attention, through relishing in the beauty of both the actions of others and the natural world.

Gratitude bestows reverence, allowing us to encounter everyday epiphanies, those transcendent moments of awe that change forever how we experience life and the world.

John Milton

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Leaning into Uncertainty: Embracing the Unknown in 2023

Good riddance, what a year you have been 2022.

You have upended the lives of many amidst the economic uncertainty and the rising anxieties posed by inflation.

You have put the world on edge as we witness citizens around the world fighting corruption in autocratic regimes for liberty, justice and equality.

You have shown us the fragility and vulnerability of our precious beloved planet. We remain in a state of unease and trepidation facing the continued risk of an ongoing environmental crisis.

We may long for utopia, a panacea of relative stability and assurance, but perhaps the only thing we can be certain of is uncertainty.

How could we ever expect things to smoothly in a world as complex as ours? The tighter we hold our grip, the more we begin to realize how little control we do have.

What if we were to let go of our predetermined plans or expectations and lean into the unknown. Only then can we fully welcome and embrace the beauty of the present moment. We can draw our heightened attention with awe to the mystery and wonder of the miracle of life on earth.

As our rigid patterns of thinking fade away, new paths begin to emerge. Novelty, creativity and excitement emanate as we gradually walk through the fog of the uncertainty.

Uncertainty requires patience. Uncertainty requires grace. Uncertainty requires faith in the goodness and resilience of the human spirit.

We can have reassurance in the strength found in our character and inner life.

As I put away my preconceived plans and expectations for 2023, I slowly walk towards the unknown in 2023 with a resolve to lean into the great unknown.

Wishing you all a safe and happy new year,


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This was originally posted on the Wise and Shine Blog

A Life of Virtue: An Introduction (with audio)

We are living in a society that has access to an abundance of knowledge, but we lack wisdom.

We have been connected to the globe online, but we feel more isolated and lonely.

We live in an age of tremendous economic prosperity and wealth, but we are never content, never satisfied.

A life of virtue is a blog about exploring questions that have concerned us since the birth of humanity. Questions that cannot be answered in a lab or solved by corporations. These are philosophical questions central to human existence:

– How can I live a good life?

– What is the purpose of my life?

– How can be we build prosperous, moral and ethical societies?

In our modern age we have been so focused on economic and technological progress that we have abandoned these philosophical pursuits. Individualism and consumerism are now the predominant ideologies in the West, and this has had immense repercussions for our society. Division and polarization have increasingly become a threat in our politics fracturing our sense of community and social cohesion.

The answers we seek to these questions have been debated throughout the centuries. They are not black and white, but require exploration – a vigorous pursuit of the truth. They require us to engage in rational dialogue with others, to view different perspectives and find areas of convergence and common ground.

This is philosophy as a way of life, come join me on this journey

A Life of Virtue: An Introduction A Life of Virtue: Philosophy as a Way of Life

The objective of A Life of Virtue Blog

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