The Science of Wonder

Experiencing everyday wonder can help us see that we’re part of something bigger. Science shows that this exquisite emotion can quiet our inner critic, reduce stress, loneliness, and physical distress, and bring a sense of expanded time, perspective, and connection.

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On a blustery January say in 2019, I looked at my iPhone on my gym bag. Two texts.

From my brother’s wife, Kim:
Can you come here as fast as possible?
Fifteen minutes later from my mom:
It’s over. Rolf took the cocktail. He is leaving us.

Rolf is my younger brother, born a year after me in a small clinic in Jalisco, Mexico. The “cocktail” was the end of-life opiates he took, which usually ends a human life in an hour or two.

I picked up my wife, Mollie, and our daughters, Natalie and Serafina, in Berkeley, then my mom in Sacramento. We arrived at Rolf and Kim’s home in the foothills of the Sierras at 10:00 p.m.

Rolf was in a bed downstairs, lying on his stomach and right cheek, his head tilted upward. My dad held his foot. I leaned in near his midsection. My mom stroked his thin hair.

Rolf’s face was full and flushed. The sunken eyes and gaunt cheeks caused by colon cancer were gone; the tightened skin around his mouth smoothed. His lips curled upward at the corners.

I rested my right hand on his left shoulder, a rounded protrusion of bone. I held it…

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About the author

Dacher Keltner

Dacher Keltner is a professor of psychology at University of California, Berkeley, and the faculty director of the Greater Good Science Center. He is the author of The Power Paradox: How We Gain and Lose Influence.