Awe and the Supernatural

Majestic mountains, vibrant vistas, stunning scenery – and, perhaps, the transformation of a blob of molten glass into a rearing horse – these are¬†sights that can truly be awe-inspiring, generating those feelings of reverence and wonder. They make time seem to slow down. But do they¬†also make it seem more likely that there must be…

Inheriting Your Parents’ Learning

In my favorite fantasy world, the Discworld, Death – yes, the skeleton with the robe and scythe – has a granddaughter, Susan, and Susan has an unusual birthmark: when she gets angry, and her face flushes red, and three white lines appear on her cheek, almost like an afterimage of being slapped. Susan was raised…

Up the Garden Path

My mind today has been on garden paths. That is, on a garden next to a path: the flower bed next to my new front walk, which had been overgrown with grass and weeds and now is clearly defined, weeded, and mulched. In honor of that garden path, let’s consider the most famous garden path…

Man’s Search for Meaning

Imagine a tree in the vibrant colors of autumn, a cool fire of red and yellow and orange. Now imagine that same tree in spring, small buds peeking forth from the branches and the sounds of birdsong in the air. And in winter, bare branches against a gray sky, perhaps coated in a layer of…

Bad for the Teeth, but Good for the Mind

If your mind is feeling worn out (a phenomenon known as ego depletion) but don’t have time to wander around in nature, science now offers an alternative: gargling with sugar water. The power of sugar has been hinted at since 2007, when one study showed that drinking sugar could restore mental muscles that had been…

A Walk in the Park to Restore Your Mind

Both my home office and my campus office feature prominently displayed posters of landscapes by Bill Hughes. They are there because viewing the originals at the Leanin’ Tree Museum of Western Art was the most powerful art experience I have ever had, and my father was glad to help me recapture it as much as…