We all have busy lives for one reason or another and often feel pressed for time. I understand the feeling. Random events conspire to steal time when the clock is ticking. Steve is coming home for a visit, and precious minutes this morning were spent cleaning up a shattered pyrex bowl. Oh, yeah, and our lone dog has thrown up twice and now has left a little present that lacks its usual form. At least, she was nowhere near a carpet. So, now, on top of all the other cleaning, I have the worst kind of mess to remove and disinfect.
Charlotte Mason suggests we should change our thoughts when anxiety strikes.
Change your thoughts? Really? Have you seen my floor?
Before running off to do the dreaded task, I crank up Handel's Messiah. Thanks to an intriguing video about feeling short on time, I realize my problem is not the lack of time. Rather, it is the lack of awe. What better way to restore my sense of awe than to hear a masterpiece?
Melanie Rudd, who wrote her dissertation on time perception, explains that experiencing awe makes you feel like you have more time available and "makes you feel more rich in time." She and two other researchers conducted three experiments and concluded that people who experience a strong sense of awe felt like they had more free time, were less impatient, were more willing to spend time to help others, sought experiences over material goods, and were more satisfied by life.
What is awe? They defined awe as a powerful positive emotion which arises from encountering something so vast and large that it causes a person to seek more knowledge and understanding. They offered examples of situations that produce awe: thunderstorms, childbirth, and the Grand Canyon. They suspect that awe helps people savor the present. It harnesses the power of living in the moment and focuses attention on what is unfolding.
What conditions produced a sense of awe in their experiments? Reading a brief story. Reliving a memory. Handel's Messiah unfolds the greatest story ever told from beginning to end. Hearing Messiah triggers many wonderful memories: singing it at my alma mater, going to The Middletown Tavern afterwards with friends for cheesecake, and introducing it to my children when they were young. Messiah led me to other great choral works! Pamela requested it for our composer study for the first term, and she has already experienced a moment of awe. Intense stretches of music in the overture swept her away, and she smiled and clapped in time for a couple of bars.
Rudd describes two defining characteristics of awe: the event must create a sense of perceptual vastness—something large, complex, intricate (and Messiah is certainly that). It must also inspire a person to seek more knowledge to help one interpret and understand the world.
Some days, I feel like there is not enough time to pack in homeschooling plus all that other stuff. I feel pressed and I feel like I am dropping some forgotten ball somewhere. Somehow, things always get done. And, yet, Pamela often remarks about a homeschooling block of time, "That was fast!"
I think how we explore our great abundance and variety of books and things creates a sense of time flying. Short lessons that offer many diverse ideas means we have more opportunities to experience awe! Those moments of awe cause the mind to reason, imagine, reflect, and judge. Mason wrote, "History must afford its pageants, science its wonders, literature its intimacies, philosophy its speculations, religion its assurances to every man, and his education must have prepared him for wanderings in these realms of gold."
Pamela and I wander in these realms of gold every day! After reading about trade and London, Pamela brightened up when she recalled that we ordered our doorbell of our Edwardian era house from London. To provide background knowledge for a biography about Michael Faraday, we are studying electricity. When we played with a balloon, comb, and hole-puncher chads, seeing the power of static electricity made Pamela gasp and say, "Wow!" several times. The first chapter of The Yearling describes scenery very much like our own, and, after reading about the construction of a flutter wheel from sticks and palmetto fronds—readily available here in Carolina—I looked for pictures of one on my Nook. The illustration of Jody's flutter mill by none other than N. C. Wyeth created a sense of awe in me, and I am looking forward to building one with Pamela when the weather is more tolerable.
Do you experience glimmers of awe during your day?
Do you feel pressed for time?
Don't run to your calendar or to-do-list and find a better way to slice up your day. Go out and find some awe!