Home » Science and Nature » The End of Awe

The End of Awe

grand-canyon-compressor“For thousands of years, it had been nature — and its [Creator] — that had had a monopoly on awe. It had been the icecaps, the deserts, the volcanoes and the glaciers that had given us a sense of finitude and limitation and had elicited a feeling in which fear and respect coagulated into a strangely pleasing feeling of humility, a feeling which the philosophers of the eighteenth century had famously termed the sublime.

“But then had come a transformation to which we were still the heirs…. Over the course of the nineteenth century, the dominant catalyst for that feeling of the sublime had ceased to be nature. We were now deep in the era of the technological sublime, when awe could most powerfully be invoked not by forests or icebergs but by supercomputers, rockets and particle accelerators. We were now almost exclusively amazed by ourselves.”

― Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work


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