It was still way too cold to really enjoy being in the water. My white dress was already wet to the waist. The photographer told me to close my eyes and lean my head into the water. My ears went under the surface and their voices distanced. I was just floating there. The soft August sun on my face and the sea gathering around me. All alone, yet completely aware of the team working close by, to create something that we wanted to be as much for everyone else as it was for us. My eyes closed and ears under water, I let go of myself, feeling the awe of complete connection and freedom.
So many of my strongest experiences of awe have happened when creating something or being a part of an experience provided by someone else. A movie that opens up a new world. A concert after which you feel that your brain just re-organised itself. Awe can also be hiding in the small-big everyday moments with people that you really care for – or even random people passing by, moving the universe on the right moment, and moving something inside you. Awe can be found on a message painted on the wall of an old club. It is in the silence between two people, lying in the dark, under a sky full of stars. The unique laugh of a friend that is one of your favourite things in the world. How can we capture, create and amplify such experiences?
In the era of information overload, rationality is over-appreciated and we are left thirsty for genuine emotion. Many of us yearn for experience and connection. Poet, singer and civil-rights activist Maya Angelou put it wisely: “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” What would happen if advertisers stopped pursuing awareness and instead aimed to induce awe?
The value of an experience cannot be measured in likes or evaluated by the amount of money made. It is measured in the depth of feeling, and the sense of belonging and that of meaningfulness. So much in life is about connection – with one another, with nature and with ourselves.
In one of my favourite academic articles ever, Silvia et al. (2015) explore the meaning and induction of awe. The emotional quality of awe is captured with words like amazement, elevation, fascination, and wonder. Awe-like experiences can expand our perception of ourselves and the world. Music and nature are known to induce experiences of awe. I believe that awe comes in all sizes and may occur in different forms and situations.
The study suggests that a person’s tendency to experience awe is connected to their openness to experience. The results support the view of openness to experience as an essentially aesthetic trait and extend it to deeper aesthetic states. Staying open to new experiences is vital for creativity.
Opening up to others and to the world is the only way to find meaningful inspiration that leads to truly interesting work that resonates.
Therefore, we should consider not just our work, but our whole life our canvas. A canvas to paint on and go wild with colours and forms. We should keep our senses open and let our minds wander. Creativity may come in the form of a dance at sunrise, where movement becomes a continuum of the solar rotation. It can be the universe served to us in the form of morning coffee.
In the water, I kept following the colours being painted on my eyelids and almost forgot how cold my toes were. Someone softly touched my hand and I lifted my head from the water to discover the beauty of an August afternoon. In an uncontrollable rush, I felt absolutely ridiculous and ridiculously happy. And right there, breathing in the late summer breeze, I remembered that the best things in life do not always make sense – but they do make you feel awe.
Stay open to new experiences,
Meri Saarivirta Bezus
Copywriter at TBWA\Helsinki