An Awesome Experience

You know that sensation when you experience something truly breathtaking, something awe inspiring?

Oooh! Pretty!
Oooh! Pretty!

It turns out that a sense of awe can support communities. Paul Piff and Dacher Keltner explained their recent findings on the connection between feeling awe and altruistic acts. The more awe people experience, the more altruistic they are. Awe-provoking experiences make us realize just how small we are and our interdependence to each other. Once we realize our collective existence, it’s a small step to act more compassionately to those around us.

Well, if this were the case, what could we possibly insert into many people’s daily lives that could inspire awe? Something that could capture people’s attention, but not be intrusive, something unexpected, yet not too unfamiliar or off-putting? What else but bells! Bells work in a variety of outdoor contexts and can add some pleasant moments to unassuming passers-by. I’d like to imagine that everyone would gain an awe-some experience form hearing bells, but that’s overly optimistic; one person may ignore the sound, another may casually notice, while a third may feel awe. For the third person who does feel awe, do they still feel it after hearing the bells once per month, or once per week, or once per day?

I was awed by the carillon the first time I saw and heard it in action—that’s what prompted me to learn the instrument! I’m curious about others. Did you experience awe the first time you heard bells play (if you even remember when that was)? Did the size of the bells make a difference? Did you have to see them to experience awe? Do you still feel awe when you hear bells ring? I have to admit, while I relish the sound of bells, they do not capture the same level of awe as they once did when I first became acquainted with them. What about you?

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