When I was a young girl I nearly died from a respiratory attack. I'd had acute asthma from a young age, but one night when I was 7 years old, my windpipe started closing up. My grandmother got me out of bed and piggybacked me through the streets of redfern to the doctor's surgery 1km away. I was taken to emergency in an ambulance and from there I blacked out.
I was reflecting on this yesterday when my mentor was asking me about the theme of inspiration and what it means to me. I'm always fascinated by the connections between the physical and the metaphorical. What I couldn't get enough of when I was little in a very literal sense was air. I couldn't catch my breath, the one key thing that indicates we are alive. And so I search everywhere for inspiration, for which one of the original translations is "to inhale". It's interesting how the things that elude us most when we're young often end up being the things we seek when we grow up. It's like I'm still trying to breathe more life into my lungs through soaking up the richness of the world in all its diverse creative offerings. In a way it's kind of like living by association- feeling more alive through connecting with other people's sense of aliveness.
I read an article recently called "Why some people get skingasms while listening to music." The article talks about how a certain percentage (55-86%) of people get shivers when they feel moved by a piece of music. I experience this with music, but I also feel this sensation whenever I feel moved by anything- it could be someone sharing their story, or looking at a piece of art, or hearing about a catastrophic event that has happened somewhere in the world. The author notes that the experience is actually called "frisson", which in french means "aesthetic chills". (I love this.) Apparently, according to research, this is the result of an evolutionary holdover, but the people who experience frisson also scored highly on a personality trait termed "Openness to Experience". These people have "unusually active imaginations, appreciate beauty and nature, seek out new experiences, often reflect deeply on their feelings, and love variety in life," explains social psychologist Mitchell Colver. "Some aspects of this trait are inherently emotional and others are cognitive, so the combination makes for an imaginative empathiser with great intellectual curiosity and appreciation of beauty."
What I love about this is that it lists so many of my core values, and what it is that I'm wanting to share with others by sharing inspiration. Being moved by something beautiful or poignant or thought-provoking actually has a ripple effect whereby we become more open to feeling in general. It increases our ability to experience empathy, and seeking and allowing the richness of diverse experiences mirrors the broad spectrum of emotions that humans have the capacity to feel. So in a way, through sponging up the beauty of art, poetry, music, thoughts etc, we have the ability to feel more alive by virtue of breathing more inspiration into our everyday.
Music: Mome 'Aloha' feat. Merryn Jeann.
Artwork: 'Fresh air', 2005, by Jessica Lloyd-Jones.
"Art and creativity has the power to alter perceptions and find beauty in the most mundane of things. If our interaction with the world is a reflection of the quality of life we lead, Lloyd-Jones is an artist whose work challenges us to seek out new ways of seeing, experiencing and existing."