The other weekend I was walking with my family on a trail at a local park. As we stopped to enjoy a view of the bay, I felt all the stress of the previous week melt away. Time stood still for just a moment and I was at peace, enjoying a beautiful moment with my family.
It got me thinking about the effect natural beauty has on us humans. When we are confronted with nature, the sheer beauty of it is awe-inspiring.
It reminded me of something my friend Mynga Furtrell, co-founder of the Brights movement, once said. She said in moments like that she is filled with Awe Natural.
Immersing yourself in the beauty of nature creates an overwhelming feeling of reverence for that which is at once grand, sublime and powerful. The effect is not subtle.
When you stop to take in a beautiful view, your brain stops thinking of your to do list and you are in a state of admiration for nature itself.
I’m pretty sure that this effect is fairly universal. It doesn’t matter what we believe about God, the universe and everything.
We all feel inspired when we view a sunset over the water, or majestic mountains.
When we lose ourselves in nature, we forget about ourselves, for just a moment. And it turns out that forgetting yourself feels marvelous!
In fact, the best way to describe such an experience is that it is transcendent.
Because I am a Humanist I don’t ascribe anything supernatural to these transcendent experiences. But, like everyone else, I am compelled to contemplate my place in the universe as a result.
What I think is that it is incredible that any of this exists at all. I think it is amazing that it would exist even if I don’t.
I think of how I am biologically related to all the plants and animals I see and to the ones that existed for eons before.
Knowing that I am intimately connected at a molecular and biological level to everything around me and at an atomic level to the universe itself is nothing short of awe inspiring.
And the best part about it is that it is real.
I don’t need supernaturalism to feel connected to something greater than myself.
I am a child of the universe. I realize that in the grand scheme of things, I am totally insignificant.
But I am here now and that’s nothing short of astounding.
I have every intention to make the most of my existence, however short it may be.
I intend to love deeply, to live my life fully, and to hopefully leave the world a slightly better place.
Jennifer Hancock, is the author of the book, “The Humanist Approach to Happiness: Practical Wisdom.” She can be found on the web at www.Jen-Hancock.com.