I’m Joe Meyer. I was fortunate enough to have parents who believed in exposing me and my two older sisters to all types of shows, movies, and music when we were younger. One of those shows that I was introduced to in the 1980s was the original Twilight Zone. I can’t say that I recall what my first episode was, but I do remember the eerie feeling of knowing that something important was being said on screen.

I think that when you’re younger, you love the twist endings and the feeling that every episode offers you a chance to work through big moral truths about life. As you get older, you start to prefer the episodes that remind you about why life is precious and that the best of humanity tends to be found when we are working together toward a common good. Slowly, you begin to realize that Mr. Serling was not trying to scare; he was trying to teach–and that brings me to my current profession.

I’m currently a full-time lecturer at the University at Albany in the Program in Writing & Critical Inquiry (not too far away from Binghamton). Although my PhD is in early American literature, I have been finding excuses to bring the Twilight Zone into my college classrooms since 2006, and my students still love to talk about them. One of my research interests is in awe studies, as in studying how awe affects us.

There has actually been quite a lot of research coming out, starting with Keltner and Haidt in 2003, regarding how awe can help both young adults and returning veterans better cope with depressive episodes. I won’t go into too much here because there is a lot to say on that topic. I’ll simply say that experiencing awe reorients the mind somewhat and makes us feel both smaller and yet more connected to humanity.

It’s my belief that THIS is the magic behind the Twilight Zone. Serling leaves us in awe, small but connected with humanity. It is for this reason that I started my own show: The Key of Imagination, where we look at Twilight Zone episodes and we focus on learning about humanity and awe. My goal is it to highlight some of the awe from the episodes and help us feel more connected as a people.

As long as they allow me to keep teaching, I’ll find ways to bring The Twilight Zone into the classroom and to highlight the important messages that Mr. Serling knew the world needed to hear then and that we still need to hear today.

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