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ETpro's avatar

What inspires your sense of awe?

Asked by ETpro (34247 points ) January 11th, 2014

The beauty of a blade of grass, the miracle of life at the microscopic scale, or the grandeur and enormity of our known Universe; each are alike in a way. All work for me.

I need no deities to feel power of something unimaginably greater than me. Salman Khan of Khan Academy captures that sentiment well in this YouTube video. What does it take to inspire a transcendental sense of awe in you?

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35 Answers

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Honestly, right now it’s my future. It’s shining brightly before me, and it has been a very long time indeed since I’ve been able to say that.

ragingloli's avatar

The tree of life.

VS's avatar

The rebirth of nature in Spring. Seeing everything come out of hibernation and trees and flowers starting to bloom, the warmth of the sun making everything want to come out and play.

On the other hand, the beauty in the starkness of winter. The blankness of trees. Snowflakes. Thundersnow although as a Southern girl, I rarely ever get to experience it first hand.

Also as you mentioned in your original question, the vastness of the Universe, and the unimaginable smallness of a virus than can cut a human down like a big oak tree.

Finally, the complexity of the human body, how we are conceived, birthed, develop, age, and pass. All of these, I find awe-inspiring.

Blackberry's avatar

Its usually large things, like looking into the infinite universe, or when you see a very large group of people I start thinking about how we’re a bunch of animals no different than a pack of orangutans.

Mariah's avatar

Walking through the woods and anything involving outer space.

marinelife's avatar

The wonders of nature. The lovingness of my dog.

whitenoise's avatar

The way kids pick up language and learn to interpret the world…

Animals showing what we percieve as typical human traits… Like a sense of fairness…

A good book.

The Aletsch Glacier…

dxs's avatar

I’m still stuck on how the sum of all natural numbers equals -1/12, but the fact that 0.9999…=1 is still pretty awe-inspiring.

janbb's avatar

The loving support of my friends and the resilience of people.

And the taste of really good nachos.

Oh yeah – and nature and shit like that…..

Bill1939's avatar

Just how improbable it is that sentient life exists. Statistically speaking, it is almost impossible that I could be addressing this question, given the succession of “Goldilocks” moments from the birth of our solar system to my having been born.

ETpro's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake So glad to hear your perspectives are brightening. That’s indeed awesome.

@ragingloli Indeed it is amazing, all the more so since we can’t actually trace if through what fossils we have available to us, but the fossil and DNA record we have makes it so apparent it exists.

@VS I’m right there with you on every one of those. And we do get thunder snow from time to time. Last week we got a blizzard and 17 inches of snow. Today it’s 57 and we’ve got the thunder and torrential downpours. Bye bye snow. :-)

@Blackberry Very true.

@Mariah Both of those work for me too.

@marinelife True.

@whitenoise Even pictures or videos of the Aletsch Glacier work for me. I can’t imagine how awe inspiring it must be to hike it.

@dxs Isn’t the Universe wired up wonderfully. Math is full of puzzles, and the sum of all natural numbers equaling -1/12 coupled with the fact that number is so prominent in physics tells us physics copes with real infinity just fine.

@janbb Excellent answers, all.

@Bill1939 Perhaps the infinite improbability drive really works. :-)

I’m leaning toward M-theory being a valid direction to explore. And the awe inspired by it if it turns out to be true is overwhelming. But it sets the fine-tuning arguments by the wayside. We can contemplate this universe because we couldn’t possibly find ourselves in one not tuned for us to exist. It’s rather like the puddle that forms in a pothole in a dirt road. The water in the puddle considers how perfectly the earth around it has been shaped to fit it, and declares that it is obvious the world of the puddle was consciously designed just for it.

Pachy's avatar

Parents, especially single ones.

RealEyesRealizeRealLies's avatar

Cutting the chord on two sons was pretty awe inspiring.

cookieman's avatar

Certain music and I’m always up for a good sunset. Also, certain types of weather — particularly wind.

Adagio's avatar

The most awesome (literally) sight I ever saw was when I was staying with friends who lived in a valley, steep hills on either side, river running through it. One night a house about half a mile down the river caught on fire and the whole valley and hillsides were lit up, there was no means of communication with the outside from the valley and so the house burnt to the ground, it was truly an awesome sight. By the way, all occupants were safe.
*It is the only time I have ever used the word awesome to describe something.

hearkat's avatar

The images that NASA has been releasing, and the astronauts and cosmonauts have been sharing from the ISS. It blows my mind that machines humans built are now outside of our solar system, on Mars, and passing by Saturn.

This video had me holding my breath at the amazing beauty of nature most recently. Do not try this at home, kids

ibstubro's avatar

Natural beauty. My #1 awe inspiring moment was The Grand Canyon.

#2 was the view of the Pacific Ocean from arid mountainside in Hawaii.

#3? Probably the Redwoods.

longgone's avatar

Sea, night sky and desert. And dessert.

talljasperman's avatar

My time travel, being able to fix some tings in my past and not others.

Espiritus_Corvus's avatar

Right Now:
Tonight’s sky. It’s quiet here. No clouds. No light pollution. Polaris. Venus and our moon together for these few hours, they will part before morning. The Milky Way off to one side is spectacular. Orion. The Pleiades. A shooting star. If you lay on your back and stare into it you get sucked into space, become weightless in the void. Sam the Border Collie is suddenly lapping at my face, throwing me a lanyard to come back home on. And he’s another awesome thing…

Tomorrow it will be something different.

laineybug's avatar

The other day in my chemistry class I learned that almost all naturally formed elements can be synthesized in the life of one massive star, and that is still pretty awe inspiring to me. Also that the sum of all natural numbers equals -1/12 like @dxs said, I just saw a video about that yesterday. I’ve also recently been realizing recently how much my choices now as a junior in high school can completely change my life and that is both terrifying and awe inspiring.

SwanSwanHummingbird's avatar

When I see or hear about animals behaving in ways that do not seem to be instinctual—unlikely couples (like a cat and an owl, or a lion and tiger a bear, oh my), animals protecting humans, seeing sorrow in a elephant and joy in the eyes of baby animals—makes me know that there is so much that we do not understand about our fellow earthlings.

Also, being a way from any light source and seeing the immense sky, full of stars, maybe even being able to see the milky way, reminds me how meaningless we really are and that after we are gone, the universe will live on and on.

anniereborn's avatar

When I think about this question it reminds me how much good I have in my life. I happily don’t know how to answer this question because SO much is awe inspiring to me. For me there are things that invoke a sense of awe for each of my senses. Some involve two or more of my senses. Some involve all! Then there is my mind and my heart and my soul.
The one that comes to mind first is seeing the ocean for the first time. On a different note, I was in awe the first time i saw the Broadway district in NYC. Then there is the awe in what a loving and kind heart my husband has.

Seek's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Wow. I hope to, someday, see a sky like that.

ETpro's avatar

@Pachy My parents were definitely awesome.

@RealEyesRealizeRealLies I only got to do that when my youngest son was born, but I totally follow you on that experience.

@Rarebear Why M33? It’s a beautiful spiral, but “only” 40 billion stars. Andromeda is closer, and boasts a trillion stars. But yeah, all galaxies are utterly awe inspiring.

@cookieman I’ve been on a Bolero kick lately, and listening to it never fails to send chills down my spine. And yeah, weather.

@Adagio I’m certainly glad all escaped unharmed. To me, that would be a spectacular and equally disturbing thing to witness.

@hearkat Space observatories like ESA’s Planck mission, Hubble and the ISS, to name just a few, are starting to feed back views of our surroundings that are absolutely beyond my imagination. It’s a wonderful time to be alive.

@ibstubro All three are spectacular in ways words cannot adequately capture.

@longgone Glad you included dessert. My son brought us a sweet potato pie to die for. Awe inspiring.

@talljasperman What is time. Does it even exist? The challenges of nonlocality are truly mind boggling.

Rarebear's avatar

@ETpro I just like it better. Mostly because I can get it in my field of view. :-)

talljasperman's avatar

10 dimensional travel Is possible. You can YouTube on it.

ETpro's avatar

@Espiritus_Corvus Talk about getting sucked into space, I was helping my older son and some of his buddies move to Mendota Heaights one evening in Minnesota and as it got late, the sky started to look funny when we got away from Saint Paul’s city light pollution. By the time we made the last trip to his new place. it was clear the we were going to be treated to a display of the Aurora Borealis. I can’t find a video that shows the effect, but asside from all the linked video shows, there were what looked like massive rid lightning bolts flashing across the sky, connecting and weaving. We laid on our backs in the cold Minnesota night till 4AM watching the glory of it all.

Oh, and Border Collies are definitely awesome animals.

@laineybug There would be no carbon, nitrogen, phosphorous, sulfur, iron or any other of the heavier elements we humans are made of, and that our world is made of if it were not for the nuclear forges of massive primordial stars that exploded as supernovae. We literally are star dust. That is incredibly awe inspiring, isn’t it.

@SwanSwanHummingbird I am so glad you brought that point in. I totally agree. We have so much in common with the features that the vainglorious among us dismiss as inferiors.

@anniereborn It’s a good thing to think about from time to time.

@Seek_Kolinahr How’s :this”:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrCWd8yT2OA?

@Rarebear I can understand the ease of photographing it. With the right equipment, photos of Andromeda are truly spectacular, but those can be captured without considerable expense in equipment. The time is coming, as we close in on colliding with Andromeda, that it will be visible in the daytime sky.

@talljasperman Googling that produces nothing but junk science and wild speculation. It I missed authoritative sires, enlighten me. Failing that, I don’t need to look for woo-woo to be staggered by reality. As J. B. S. Haldane said, “The universe is not only queerer than we suppose, it is queerer than we can suppose.”

tom_g's avatar

Shit, it’s nearly impossible to not be in awe of nearly everything. It takes a great deal of delusion to not be in near tears due to overwhelming awe every second of the day. But it’s likely a necessary delusion, because there is only so much many of us can take.

Seek's avatar

Alas, @ETpro, we probably won’t be here for that event. Two galaxies colliding is an apocalypse worth the experience.

ragingloli's avatar

@Seek_Kolinahr
Not really. Space is so empty that there will be no actual collisions of stars, let alone planets.
At most it might disrupt planetary orbits, but even that scenario is questionable.

Seek's avatar

@ragingloliParty pooper. ^_^

ETpro's avatar

@tom_g So true.

@ragingloli & @Seek_Kolinahr Not to worry. A few billion years after our galaxies merge to form a massive eliptical galaxy with about 1.4 trillion stars including our beloved Sun, our own star will deplete its supply of hydrogen fuel. That will cause it to begin gravitational collapse, which will increase core temperatures till it begins to fuse helium, and then progressively heaver atoms formed from helium fusion. This “Red Giant” phase will increase its temperature and internal pressures till it expands out to melt and absorb the Earth before shrinking back to become a white dwarf.

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