Make space for awe in our lives

I read with interest how a study conducted in the United States showed that people who regularly experienced awe in their everyday lives show more generosity to strangers than those who did not ("How awe binds us to others"; June 5).

In land-scarce Singapore, we do not have large, majestic parks like the Yellowstone National Park or the Grand Canyon, which are sources of awe. These monuments are simply not in our own backyard, so one can only organise trips there once in a blue moon.

I agree that regular doses of awe could make us more altruistic and less self-centred - and this can come in the form of pictures.

For me, the most awe-inspiring pictures I have seen are mostly those of space exploration. My personal favourite is the one taken during the Apollo 11 mission to the moon in 1969, during which the astronaut Neil Armstrong took his "one small step for man".

This particular photograph shows the rising Earth with the seemingly huge Moon in the foreground with the photographer standing on the surface of the Moon. From this vantage point, the Earth appears smaller due to the fairly long distance between the two bodies.

There are also photographs of Earth taken from the International Space Station on the Internet, which reveal the raw beauty of our planet and, at the same time, shows our vulnerability.

I am also following the voyage of the New Horizon spacecraft to the dwarf planet Pluto that culminated in the high-definition photographs that were transmitted back ("Close-ups of Pluto show ice mountains"; July 17), especially that of a heart-shaped pattern in white on the lower hemisphere. Such is the spirit of humankind in exploring the unknown.

The ultimate space scene for me would be that of the Milky Way with its full length spanning the entire night sky, which is something we cannot see in Singapore.

These awe-inspiring moments for mankind have also engendered in me a thirst to learn more about science and how the universe works as well as about Albert Einstein's theory of relativity.

The most important thing is such things remind us that we have only one home and that each of us has a role to protect it, such as by reducing our carbon footprint to slow the devastating effects of global warming.

Lee Kay Yan (Miss)