Welcome to the podcast ‘One Thousand Reasons for Feeling Awe.’ Before I embark on the wondrous journey of 999 interviews with experts from around the world, I’d like to offer a reason of my own—the first reason that will inaugurate the chain of wonderment, this stunning collage that we will gradually form, which is in itself one good reason for feeling awe.
When we speak of awe, we always look for specific reasons for feeling it. We find these reasons in certain objects in the world, particular phenomena—and indeed, this project is going to focus on many such objects, and for good reasons: every wondrous object, if given sufficient attention, contains the mystery of the universe as a whole and testifies to the all-pervading presence of wonder.
Take, for instance, a jellyfish that can never die—this actually exists!—or, alternatively, the fact that we still have absolutely no idea how, at a certain point, humans developed the ability to think in such complex ways.
But before we are turning our attention to one phenomenon in the universe, isn’t existence itself a reason for feeling awe? Don’t we take for granted the very fact of existence, which is like an unending riddle, a question mark that never leads, or can never lead, to a final, satisfying answer?
As humanity, we’ve written billions of books and developed millions of theories. We have universities, research labs, and inconceivable technologies produced on the basis of identifiable cosmic laws and planetary substances.
All the time, we have the feeling that we are approaching the comprehension of the universe. Any minute now! But in actuality, we may perhaps grasp how the universe behaves, how things work, but not what the universe is and who and what we are and where we have emerged from.
Presently, our scientific paradigm is content with this odd perception of a random and causeless evolution. This is actually not an explanation for anything—at best, this is a completely dissatisfying description
Even our wonderful religions and mystical approaches haven’t managed to dispel this mystery. We may perhaps declare with confidence that ‘God is one,’ yet we have no idea who this one is, or what is the reason that the universe has erupted out of the blue.
Again, we have countless theories, which we can either adopt or reject. But, as Albert Camus wrote in his Myth of Sisyphus again and again, the universe itself remains silent in the face of humanity’s question. And as American philosopher Thomas Nagel added in response, even if the universe would finally speak, the answer wouldn’t necessarily appease our answer-seeking mind and heart.
Instead of praying for an answer, I’d suggest pausing from time to time in the midst of this existence and feeling this undying question mark which is the no. 1 reason for feeling awe: what is all this? Where and why have we come from? What are all these people, animals, plants, rocks—with this inconceivable attention to details, the dizzying complexity and diversity? What is this breathtakingly vast universe with its hundreds of billions of galaxies and the enormous space between all the celestial bodies, not to mention the fact that we ourselves are floating in this space?
And above all, what am I? Where has this body come from and what is the sense of my existence and the unstoppable fact of the death of this body? All I can say is that one day, I found myself existing!