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Fueling Meaning with Awe-Filled Moments

Allison D. Webster
Even though I’ve been a New Englander my whole life, I’ve never developed a true love of winter. I’m filled with delight as soon as the signs of winter’s end come into sight, and no harbinger of seasonal change makes me happier than the rise of the daffodils. Just the other day I was walking around Stoney Lea and saw a full hillside of daffodils. It filled me with a moment of delight and awe.
Emilie Esfahani Smith’s talk last week here at DCD about her book The Power of Meaning spoke to the importance of awe and transcendence in our quest for meaning. When we feel awe, we feel connected to something much larger than ourselves, and the experience of transcendence, even when it is momentary, is a source of meaning. She also talked about the importance of other pillars of meaning, like storytelling and shaping a coherent narrative of our lives, having a sense of purpose, and having a sense of belonging.

On this last day of poetry month, I thought I’d share Wordsworth’s I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud so you can revel in the beauty of the daffodils, the power of an awe-filled moment to stay with us and sustain us, the way these moments of beauty add meaning to our lives. Younger children may talk about something transcendent as their “wow moment,” and adolescents may frame it as something “awesome.” In either case, DCD’s students are noticing the many awe-inspiring moments around them as one more source of meaning. Enjoy the poem!

I Wandered Lonely As A Cloud
by William Wordsworth

I wandered lonely as a cloud
That floats on high o'er vales and hills,
When all at once I saw a crowd,
A host, of golden daffodils;
Beside the lake, beneath the trees,
Fluttering and dancing in the breeze.

Continuous as the stars that shine
And twinkle on the milky way,
They stretched in never-ending line
Along the margin of a bay:
Ten thousand saw I at a glance,
Tossing their heads in sprightly dance.

The waves beside them danced; but they
Out-did the sparkling waves in glee:
A poet could not but be gay,
In such a jocund company:
I gazed—and gazed—but little thought
What wealth the show to me had brought:

For oft, when on my couch I lie
In vacant or in pensive mood,
They flash upon that inward eye
Which is the bliss of solitude;
And then my heart with pleasure fills,
And dances with the daffodils.
 
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