Arts Awareness Monthly E-Newsletter | August 2014

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Wonder and Insight

Without wonder and insight, acting is just a trade.
With it, it becomes creation.

Bette Davis
Artistic expression is much more than a skill or a line of work. It’s an imaginative, inspired, and innovative way of communicating and living life. It’s a way of expressing and portraying beauty that comes from disparate and wide ranging topics—from the unconceivable or outrageous to the exceptionally uplifting or awe-inspiring. While Bette Davis speaks of the crucial importance of wonder and insight to acting as creativity and imagination, it’s also true of all forms of artistic expression. 

Wonder in and of itself can be a joyful experience. It’s a beginning, an opening to notice and engage with everything around you. Artists engage with the world and the materials and elements of their art forms, making connections many don’t ever consider. 

by Walt Whitman

Why, who makes much of a miracle?
As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles, 
Whether I walk the streets of Manhattan,
Or dart my sight over the roofs of houses toward the sky,
Or wade with naked feet along the beach just in the edge of the water,
Or stand under trees in the woods,
Or talk by day with anyone I love, or sleep in the bed at night with anyone I love,
Or sit at table at dinner with the rest,
Or look at strangers opposite me riding in the car,
Or watch honey bees busy around the hive of a summer forenoon,
Or animals feeding in the fields,
Or birds, or the wonderfulness of insects in the air,
Or the wonderfulness of the sundown, or of stars shining so quiet and bright,
Or the exquisite delicate thin curve of the new moon in spring;
These with the rest, one and all, are to me miracles,
The whole referring, yet each distinct and in its place.

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle, 
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle,
Every square yard of the surface of the earth is spread with the same,
Every foot of the interior swarms with the same.

To me the sea is a continual miracle, 
The fishes that swim--the rocks--the motion of the waves--the ships with the men in them, 
What stranger miracles are there?

Insight gives us the ability to see and hear and know something we’ve never noticed before. Artists are deeply focused on their work and through the process of attentiveness and contemplation they experience heightened awareness; they are deeply reflective; they suddenly see a new way to express something. It might be simple or complex, but it is always unexpected and can offer a new awareness—a sudden realization or inspiration. 

Cubists took things apart to see them in a new way; people and landscapes were represented as combinations of geometric shapes often showing multiple viewpoints of a particular image. Looking at things in new ways and taking things apart to see what’s inside requires openness and allows space for wonder and insight. Wonder and insight together can help all of us think about new ways of seeing things and approaching our everyday lives. It’s a “thinking team” that can spark creativity and help you create your life just as an artist creates a masterpiece. 

Here are some ideas to open to wonder and insight in your life:
  • Live your life with passion whether in grief or in great joy. 
  • Pay attention—look, listen, and reflect—with all of your senses. 
  • Be open to answers to questions or solutions to problems that come to mind suddenly without warning. Pay attention and make notes. 
  • Take time every day for silence, solitude, reflection.
  • Think about the solutions and ideas that come to mind. 
As Dr. Seuss said, “Think and wonder, wonder and think.”

Interesting—Check it out:

The Shoreline of Wonder: On Being Creative by Austin Hill Shaw “takes us on an exploratory journey to discover how creativity permeates every aspect of our lives and shows us how we can bring it to the forefront of our experience.”

The Art of Insight: How to Have More Aha! Moments. Charles Kiefer and Malcolm Constable present a thorough, pragmatic approach for dependably generating fresh thoughts and perspectives to reliably access insights. They draw on years of research, reflection, and experiences with colleagues, friends, and clients to present a user-friendly practices and helpful exercises. 

This Huffington Post article by Lori Leibovich from September 2013—Moments of Wonder: Finding Childhood In Everyday Life, Summer Edition—presents a delightful slideshow of “the most transcendent moments of parenthood”  when we inhabit our children’s worlds completely and get to experience the wonder of childhood again.

TED 2011: The Rediscovery of Wonder, Day One by Maria Popova from her website Brain Pickings presents the sequence of a widely varied group of presenters from the first day of the program. It stirs the imagination and blends wonder with a substantive dose of thoughtful insight

A moment's insight is sometimes worth a life's experience.
~ Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

Wisdom begins in wonder.
~ Socrates
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About the Arts Awareness Newsletter:

This newsletter is meant to spark ideas and develop a deeper understanding of artistic processes and their use in leadership, everyday life, and work. Content, which comes from personal experiences and a variety of sources, is based on the Arts Awareness concepts developed by Patricia Hoy. Questions? Comments? Contact Patricia at or 901-229-1955, Huntington Avenue, Boston, MA.
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