“The world is full of magic things, patiently waiting for our senses to grow sharper.” W.B. Yeats
Think for a moment about a time you were in awe of something; and think about how you felt, the emotion of that moment. It’s an addictive feeling, right? I think creatives rely on that feeling more than most. Truly experiencing something with all of my senses is enough to give me a little jolt.
One of those moments for me was standing on Oahu’s North Shore in January of 2012 as massive swells generated by storms in the north Pacific Ocean hammered the shore at Banzai Pipeline. While the image above captures the beauty of the surf itself, the image below (by Sean Davey) captures more of what I’m talking about.
A large number of people stood on the beach (some for hours) just watching the waves roll in, set after set. The conversation amongst those gathered was minimal. Everyone was just soaking in this astounding display of natural force and beauty; a collective moment of awe.
Now, I’m not saying anyone has to go to Hawai’i to experience awe (though there’s certainly a lot of it there…) but I think “going” is part of the process. Most of us are not immediately surrounded in our homes or yards by the sorts of occurrences that inspire awe. But it’s important to know that you don’t have to go far, either. I was reminded of that last week when my spouse and I embarked on a hike in the canyon behind our house. Together, we explored an area close to home but entirely new to us. The trails have been there for years and we kept saying, “one day…”. That day finally came and it has opened up new things for us to see. I’d never seen the valley below our home. I’d never seen the incredible hilltop view of downtown L.A. Those two things, as well as a few others, inspired awe in me. Okay, not the big sort of awe that massive 20′ walls of cresting ocean inspires, but smaller moments. Those smaller moments are just as important.
There is so much beauty in our world – natural and man-made. To NOT stop and take it in is to deprive yourself of something precious. It could also deprive you of creative inspiration – after all inspiration is EVERYWHERE and, like the magic referred to by to our poet Yeats, is just “waiting for our senses to grow sharper”.
Seeking awe requires two simple things, I believe. Something to experience and the ability to experience it, not just glance at it between checking messages. That day on the beach, I could see the incredible waves but I could also feel the warmth of the January sun on my skin, taste the salt of the sea air, hear the crashing of waves, and smell the plumeria blooms wafting on the breeze. That memory is forever etched into my brain. It was, truly, “awe”some.