How Does Awe Affect Us? | Monday Musings

In last week’s New York Times article “Why Do We Experience Awe?”, psychology professors from UC Berkeley and UC Davis shared some interesting recent findings around what happens when people experience awe. They describe awe as “that often-positive feeling of being in the presence of something vast that transcends our understanding of the world,” and share that awe can be felt after many kinds of activities, from collective rituals, to celebration and dance, to viewing natural beauty.


Their research took advantage of the magnificent eucalyptus trees on UC Berkeley’s campus and concluded that after people gazed up at these beauties, they became more generous, cooperative, and willing to sacrifice more for others. These outcomes reveal that even in fleeting doses, experiencing awe can “redefine the self in terms of the collective, and orient our actions toward the needs of those around us.”


In our increasingly self-focused society, if we are to connect better with others and develop more cohesive communities, we need to seek out awe more frequently, for ourselves and for our kids.


In case you weren’t sure where this was going, Camp Tawonga is a perfect recipe for awe. Children live in the natural beauty of the Sierra Nevada mountains and Tuolumne River while at camp. They also learn to live as a cooperative coJohn Tweena-19mmunity together with their bunk, eating meals and engaging in activities as a unit. Our group-centered philosophy yields collective experience and celebration – a prime breeding-ground for awe.


Parents have shared with us that after returning home from camp, their kids treat fellow siblings more kindly and are more cooperative to pitch in with communal chores, showing greater consideration for others in general. We’re proud that the awe of Tawonga encourages “Gemilut Hasadim” in people – a mitzvah meaning “giving of loving-kindness.” As we excitedly await our first session of camp to start in less than two weeks, it is comforting to know that our campers and staff alike are in for an awesome summer.

p.s. Read the NYT article here.


Camp Tawonga Monday Musings: where we connect broader ideas and themes to camp, and specifically, to the “Tawonga Way” of living, learning, and treating others.