Jason Silva
Shots of Awe
Ideas are powerful because they allow us to see the world as it could be, rather than what it is.
Consciousness, when it's unburdened by the body, is something that's ecstatic; we use the mind to watch the mind, and that's the meta-nature of our consciousness; we know that we know that we know, and that's such a delicious feeling, but when it's unburdened by biology and entropy, it becomes more than delicious: it becomes magical.
Awe is an experience of such perceptual vastness you literally have to reconfigure your mental models of the world to assimilate it.
Awe is the best drug in the world.
Creativity and insight almost always involve an experience of acute pattern recognition: the eureka moment in which we perceive the interconnection between disparate concepts or ideas to reveal something new.
One of the most interesting phenomenons of human beings is our creativity, right? I mean our ability to transform the world, our ability to imagine new possibilities, our ability to probe the perimeters of possibility, remix the present to see into the adjacent possible, which Steven Johnson refer to as a shadow future that hovers over the present state of things, a map of all the ways in which the present can reinvent itself.
Creativity is just connecting things, as Steve Jobs says. And people who go into this creative zone, virtuosos of the imagination, those ecstatic technicians of the sacred spaces of human virtuosity, athletes when they get into the zone, scientists when they have their eureka moments, musicians, artists, when they enter these flow states, jazz musicians when they’re improving, Charles Mingus as he rhapsodizes through a tumbling thicket of ideas with such a sharp and vital alacrity that it can take the breath away.
These flow states are finally starting to be understood, thanks to neuroscience. The part of the brain responsible for self-editing literally goes dim. So there is this thing, a kind of scrambling of the self. There is a scrambling of the super ego that’s trying to correct everything you do and sensor and filter what is otherwise collective subconscious—active imagination, so to speak. And I think that these artists, these athletes, when they go into the flow state, I’m sure that they’ve had their 10,000 hours of practice in whatever their skill is, but then they go into that flow state. Perfection is not just about control. It’s also about letting go. They shut down their lateral prefrontal cortex and they enter the realm of the numinous, the realm of the imaginal, the realm where the dream becomes real. That space, that head space of flow is the place where dreams are born.
You know that I’m very passionate about this idea of the flow state. This state of virtuosity and enhanced performance among artists and musicians and writers and elite athletes. They go into this zone where they experience this transient, hypofrontality, this temporary moment where the ego dissolves. You get sort of hyper-focused in what you’re doing. You drop into Theta states like meditating monks and you’re able to achieve excellence and virtuosity that exceeds normal human levels and thresholds for what is possible. We transcend ourselves in these moments of flow.
Ideas catch the dewdrops and reflect the cosmos, so let those ideas be noble, let them be poetic and let them be beautiful.