In his new book Awe: The New Science of Everyday Wonder and How it Can Transform Your Life, Dacher Keltner, UC Berkeley professor of psychology, defines awe as “the emotion we experience when we encounter vast mysteries that we don’t understand.” In his recent book talk, he introduced a receptive crowd to this concept, and how it is distinct from bliss, ecstasy, or gratitude. It is an emotion of mystery, of goosebumps. Keltner has even served as an “awe consultant,” guiding Pixar films on how to incorporate awe in the films Inside Out, and Soul.
When Professor Keltner was joined in conversation with three colleagues and an audience of a hundred in the Morrison Library on February 27, the discussion touched on many aspects of this emotion. Yuria Celidwen, a senior fellow at the Othering & Belonging Institute, spoke about transcendent experiences as conceptualized in indigenous cultures and how the elders in her Chiapas, Mexico community teach about a sense of reverence for nature or “ecological belonging.” Wesley Lu, a fourth year undergraduate and a student mental health advocate, spoke about collective effervescence — when a life force creates a collective self whether in a classroom, during a religious ceremony or among sports fans.
And no conversation about awe, especially in Berkeley, is complete without a discussion of plant medicine; third year undergraduate Mridini Vijay, also a campus mental health advocate, asked Celidwen to discuss her research on the topic that is commonly, though incorrectly, referred to as psychedelics. In Ethical Indigenous Medicine to Guide Western Psychedelic Research and Practice (The Lancet Regional Health – Americas (February 2023)), which Keltner described as “one of the most important papers on psychedelics ever published,” Celidwen and colleagues discuss concerns by Indigenous Nations over the cultural appropriation and exclusionary practices of psychedelic use in the West and the false notion that plant medicine is somehow the “one key pill to human enlightenment.” In fact, there is evidence that a daily practice incorporating “understanding, kindness, gratitude and reverence” may be as good as or better than psychedelics. In the end, there is so much more to learn about awe, and how we may experience it in our daily lives. Keltner’s book is a wonderful starting point for that journey.
Lecture | October 15 | 12-1 p.m. | 303 Doe Library
Michelle Steinbeck is a Swiss author, curator, and editor whose 2016 debut novel My Father was a Man on Land and a Whale in the Water (Mein Vater war ein Mann an Land und im Wasser ein Walfisch), published by Lenos Verlag, was nominated for both the Swiss and the German Book Prize. It has been described by one reviewer as “. . . one of the most audacious, exuberant and thrilling novels I’ve read for a long time, even if it is disturbing and bizarre. It is a modernist, magical mash-up about families, home, identity and, ultimately, happiness.”
Michelle will present this work, which has been translated into an English edition (2018, Darf Publishers), and also speak about her writing more broadly.
The Fourth Annual Bay Area Book Fest is fast approaching! On Saturday, April 28th and Sunday, April 29th, writers and book enthusiasts will flock to downtown Berkeley to discuss and celebrate literature. Get up to date before the festival comes to town. Try these books by some of the featured authors:
Happy reading and enjoy the book festival!
*The Library attempts to offer programs in accessible, barrier-free settings. If you think you may require disability-related accommodations, please contact the event sponsor, Margaret Phillips (email@example.com), ideally at least two weeks prior to the event.
Tom McEnaney’s book explores the “coevolution” of the radio and the novel amid influential movements in populist politics in three countries in the mid-20th century: the New Deal in America; Peronism in Argentina, and the Cuban Revolution. The book illustrates how governments, activists, and artists have struggled for control to represent the voice of the people within a changing media landscape.
Professors José Quiroga of Emory University and Freya Schiwy of UC Riverside will be discussing the book after professor McEnaney’ s reading.
Thursday, September 14, 2017 | 5:00pm – 6:30pm
Social Research Library (227 Haviland Hall)
In his new book, Deconstructing Race: Multicultural Education Beyond the Color-Blind (Teachers College Press, 2017), Professor Jabari Mahiri of UC Berkeley’s Graduate School of Education, explores contemporary and historical scholarship on race, the emergence of multiculturalism, and the rise of the digital age. Professor Mahiri examines evolving, highly distinctive micro-cultural identities and affinities, and provides an educational framework for understanding the diversity of individuals and groups.
Books will be available for sale or can be purchased ahead of time (with a 20% discount) on the Teachers College Press website.
Sponsored by: Berkeley Library (Social Sciences Division), Bay Area Writing Project, National Writing Project.