I stumbled across Dacher Keltner’s work when I was first researching Enchantment. At the time, it was a completely different book based around the concept of humility, and I was trawling Google Scholar for papers that backed up my hypothesis that humility was a vital component of a good life. What I found took me in a completely different direction. Dacher and his colleagues certainly valued humility, but they linked it to awe.
They saw clearly that experiencing awe induced a feeling of being small within a vast universe - a radical shift into context. We humans spend a lot of time forgetting that we’re one in eight billion, and when we remember it, it changes us. By absorbing ourselves in awe, we become better people, more motivated to go out and do good. It’s similar to the ego dissolution that Michael Pollan writes about when he explores psychedelics (you can listen to my On Being interview with him here): when you experience being nothing, you make a deep connection to everything.