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My Lesson From Macau: Why Creativity Starts With Awe
“Hello China!...... there are just so many of you.” Stefani Germanotta, better known by her Queen-inspired moniker, Lady Gaga, made that appeal to 15,000 screaming teenage Chinese girls in a large concert hall in Macau in the summer of 2009. By virtue of an English teaching gig in Hong Kong, I was fortunate enough to personally witness her observation that there are, in fact, a lot of Chinese people in the world. Anyone there that night, even those who didn’t speak English – and that was most people – noticed that the New York City showgirl was a strange bird; visually, her nonsensical wardrobe made her more Dada than Gaga. A string of pop hits and eclectic dance moves was forgettable, but it was Gaga’s grandeur, evident from a 100 rows back and three sections up, that made her memorable, enough, at least, for me to share her insightful remarks on the Chinese populace three years later.
A pleasurable byproduct of creative excellence is the sense of awe. We’re drawn towards technical prowess in the arts, and when an object or performance showcases exceptional talent and virtuosity we feel effusive admiration for the creator, like a child gawking in the window of a candy store. Think about gazing at the Sistine Chapel or listening to the New York Philharmonic perform a rendition of Beethoven’s Fifth. (For me, it’s the reprise in Les Misérables.) The late Denis Dutton said it best: “skills exercised by writers, carvers, dancers, potters, composers, painters, pianists, singers, etc. can cause jaws to drop, hair to stand up on the back of the neck, and eyes to flood with tears. The demonstration of skill is one of the most deeply moving and pleasurable aspects of art.” This was the case in Macau, where all those Chinese teenyboppers and me left Gaga’s performance awestruck.
Creativity is impossible without awe. The history of creative output is a history of one creator reconciling a gushy esteem he has for another creator. Examples are scattered throughout history. Dylan is famous for emulating Woody Guthrie for years before breaking through with original music. Shakespeare spent considering time imitating Marlow plays. Even entire movements are born out of the awe-inspiring: A Sex Pistols gig in June of 1976 in Manchester is said to have jump-started a generation of punk music, which, some might argue, changed music forever; Dylan’s performance at the Newport Folk Festival in 1965 was a catalyst for folk music in the United States; the most famous example (contemporary at least) might be The Beatles performance at Shea Stadium in the same year.
A Darwinian might argue that the motivation to imitate eminent creators is an attempt to distinguish oneself, with either an object or performance, within a community. Perhaps. But most artists pursue their craft not for status – or to get the girls – but because doing so is intrinsically fulfilling. It would be difficult to imagine a high school band director or a private French horn teacher in it for universal praise and glory. It’s more likely that they do it to fulfill an inherent desire to improve their craft. Awe-inspiring objects and performances are important because they propel the passion of a creative. Creativity would die a quick death if we didn’t possess the natural tendency to admire eminent creators.
Little research on when and how art and human creation elicit awe exists. A 2003 paper by Dacher Keltner and Jonathan Haidt defines awe as perceived vastness (an event or object that overwhelms us) and a need for accommodation (an event or object that forces us to rethink our worldview) and argues that physical and metaphoric size (e.g., Michaelangelo’s David or a Greek Myth), magical and impossible events - as opposed to what’s ordinary - and novelty contribute to a sense of awe. Its ability to generate a sense of communalism also defines awe. This was true in Macau, but it’s more prominent at raves, where a good DJ suppresses “I” and encourages “we.” Haidt mentions a few more characteristics in his recent book, The Righteous Mind: “Awe acts like a kind of reset button: it makes people forget themselves and their petty concerns. Awe opens people to new possibilities, values, and directions in life. Awe is one of the emotions most closely linked… to collective love and collective joy.”
If we understand awe as the feeling of wonder and excitement mixed with disbelief, Nature is probably its most reliable source. The ocean and the Grand Canyon are sobering and inspiring, so are things like the Hubble Deep Field, a tropical island, waterfalls, rainbows and sunsets. Dutton argues that our appreciation of these vistas is part of a natural evolved appreciation for beauty in nature. The positive psychologist Martin Seligman believes that appreciating beauty in nature, the arts or athletics is an important aspect of human flourishing. There is at least a degree of truth to these assertions. But there’s no doubt that a willingness to be awestruck is a central ingredient for creative expression, whether it comes from the Sistine Chapel or Gaga.
Educators and administrators must build new supports for faculty and student success in a world where the classroom might become virtual in the blink of an eye.
- If you or someone you know is attending school remotely, you are more than likely learning through emergency remote instruction, which is not the same as online learning, write Rich DeMillo and Steve Harmon.
- Education institutions must properly define and understand the difference between a course that is designed from inception to be taught in an online format and a course that has been rapidly converted to be offered to remote students.
- In a future involving more online instruction than any of us ever imagined, it will be crucial to meticulously design factors like learner navigation, interactive recordings, feedback loops, exams and office hours in order to maximize learning potential within the virtual environment.
A leading British space scientist thinks there is life under the ice sheets of Europa.
- A British scientist named Professor Monica Grady recently came out in support of extraterrestrial life on Europa.
- Europa, the sixth largest moon in the solar system, may have favorable conditions for life under its miles of ice.
- The moon is one of Jupiter's 79.
Neil deGrasse Tyson wants to go ice fishing on Europa<div class="rm-shortcode" data-media_id="GLGsRX7e" data-player_id="FvQKszTI" data-rm-shortcode-id="f4790eb8f0515e036b24c4195299df28"> <div id="botr_GLGsRX7e_FvQKszTI_div" class="jwplayer-media" data-jwplayer-video-src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"> <img src="https://cdn.jwplayer.com/thumbs/GLGsRX7e-1920.jpg" class="jwplayer-media-preview" /> </div> <script src="https://content.jwplatform.com/players/GLGsRX7e-FvQKszTI.js"></script> </div>
Water Vapor Above Europa’s Surface Deteced for First Time<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="9c4abc8473e1b89170cc8941beeb1f2d"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/WQ-E1lnSOzc?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
New study shows white dwarf stars create an essential component of life.
- White dwarf stars create carbon atoms in the Milky Way galaxy, shows new study.
- Carbon is an essential component of life.
- White dwarfs make carbon in their hot insides before the stars die.
What Are White Dwarf Stars?<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="7b046e546ce994682b2553a8c978eb32"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/77a1KSxfaR0?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Master negotiator Chris Voss breaks down how to get what you want during negotiations.
- Former FBI negotiator Chris Voss explains how forced empathy is a powerful negotiating tactic.
- The key is starting a sentence with "What" or "How," causing the other person to look at the situation through your eyes.
- What appears to signal weakness is turned into a strength when using this tactic.
3 Tips on Negotiations, with FBI Negotiator Chris Voss | Best of '16 | Big Think<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="b86d518e9f0c9f9d7a7c686e07798152"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/-FLlBchonwM?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span><p>This question forces a response, but—and this is key—the other person has to consider your side of the argument. They have to look at the situation from your perspective if they hope to offer a solution.</p><p>Offering a real-world example, Voss mentions coaching a high-end real estate agent. They were leasing an expensive home in the Hollywood Hills. The first time the negotiators asked the "how" question, the leasing agent relented on a number of terms. A little while later, they asked again. This time, the agent said, "If you want the house you're going to have to do it," signaling that the end of negotiations had been reached. </p><p>Voss says that "how" is not the only word that works. "What" is also a powerful entry into negotiations, such as "What am I supposed to do?" Again, you're forcing the other person to empathize. </p><p>This is a particularly tricky skill during a time when most conversations are online. Nuance is impossible without the immediacy of pantomimes and vocal fluctuations. Whataboutism is too easy an escape. </p>
Aikido Morihei Ueshiba (1883 - 1969, standing, centre left), founder of the Japanese martial art of aikido, demonstrating his art with a follower, at the opening ceremony of the newly-opened aikido headquarters, Hombu Dojo, in Shinjuku, Tokyo, 1967.
(Photo by Keystone/Hulton Archive/Getty Images)<p>Online debates often amount to little more than frustrated individuals pulling out their hair. In his book, "Against Empathy," Yale psychology professor Paul Bloom writes that effective altruists are able to focus on what really matters in everyday life.</p><p>For example, he compares politics to sports. Rooting for your favorite team isn't based in rationality. If you're a Red Sox fan, Yankees stats don't matter. You just want to destroy them. This, he believes, is how most people treat politics. "They don't care about truth because, for them, it's not really about truth."</p><p>Bloom writes that if his son believed our ancestors rode dinosaurs, it would horrify him, but "I can't think of a view that matters less for everyday life." We have to strive for rationality when the stakes are high. When involved in real decision-making processes that will affect their life, people are better able to express ideas and make arguments, and are more receptive to opposing ideas. </p><p>Because we "become inured to problems that seem unrelenting," it's imperative to make the problem seem immediate. As Voss says, giving the other side "the illusion of control" is one way of accomplishing this, as it forces them to take action. When people feel out of control, negotiations are impossible. People dig their heels in and refuse to budge. </p><p>What seems to be weakness is actually a strength. To borrow another martial arts metaphor, negotiations are like aikido: using your opponent's force against them while also protecting them from injury. Forcing empathy is one way to accomplish this task. You may get more than you ask for without the other side ever realizing they surrendered anything.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>