Meaningful conversations from the heart of your creative spark...
Join us as we explore the thought provoking themes surrounding CreativeMornings Cleveland's monthly breakfast lecture series. Excerpts of the lecture are book ended by meaningful conversations with attendees and speakers alike.
In this episode of Wake Up Call we explore the theme, WONDER. Recorded at the CreativeMornings Cleveland breakfast lecture on June 21, 2019, David Allen Moss talks with attendees and guest speaker, Stormy Sweitzer.
Join us for the next episode of Wake Up Call. The theme is END.
David Moss: When we're kids, we wonder about everything. The whole world is full of wonder, the stars at night as we look up from the backyard, dreaming up adventures, the little white cap waves and what's underneath them as we look out from the beach, the blimp floating overhead at your first major league baseball game, the window washer, 20 stories up, hanging on the side of a glass building, and how that middle lever works, you know, when the vanilla and chocolate ice cream magically become swirl. The world is full of wonder, and that's what we'll be talking about in this episode of Wake Up Call. Today, I'm joined by Stormy Sweitzer, Tricia Previte, and Heather Roberts. I'm David Alan Moss. Thanks for joining me.
Thomas Fox: hi, I'm Thomas Fox with Creative Mornings Cleveland. We're thrilled to have Evergreen Podcasts onboard as our official podcast partner. Evergreen Podcasts is committed to producing the best original content and engaging shows. Right now, you're listening to Wake Up Call, recording the on location at the monthly Creative Mornings Lecture Series. Enjoy.
Stormy Sweitzer: We let ourselves play. I think as adults we sort of have relegated play and imagination to things of childhood. And I don't know how many times people told me in my life, "Oh, get real," or, "Grow up." For me, that would kill me. It would kill my spirit to do that.
David Moss: Get real. The polar opposite of wonder. The two words that take us from our childlike vigor and crash us into adulthood, but not for Stormy Sweitzer. Stormy's experience with wonder, her practice of wonder, and even her study of the phenomenon of wonder. It all started with a run along the foothills of the Ochre Mountain Range in Salt Lake City.
Stormy Sweitzer: I think I was in a period of my life where I just was emotionally flat, really. And when you're in that state of mind, you don't really see beauty. You don't really see possibility. And something spoke to me in an article I read that day about running, and I knew it was something that I had been in a practice of for years, really enjoyed, and it had always helped spark new ideas, gave me fresh perspective. And so I went for a run that day. Hadn't run for several months, and so of course it was just a painful experience, right?
Stormy Sweitzer: And so just at the point where I was about to turn back, I came around a corner where the street opened up onto the mountains. I'm from Salt Lake City. I was running in the foothills, and so this was a view of the Ochre Mountain Range. It was golden hour, so it was just this beautiful 5:00 PM spring sunlight, and then when this breeze picked up, it blew all the pedals off of a tree, a fruit tree or something. And they swirled around me and literally stopped in midair, and I could not explain it.
Stormy Sweitzer: I could not figure out what was going on, and it just arrested me in place. I stopped. I considered what was going on. But really, it was like time had slowed, right? It felt like minutes because in the space of milliseconds, I'm sure, every thought left my head. I just felt this incredible euphoria. My body warmed up. I felt these tendrils of liquid pulsing through my brain, like something's going on, but I don't know what it is. And then just like that the pedals collapsed. They fell to the ground and I was on my way. But it was shocking. But it gave me so much energy and and so where I was in pain before, suddenly I was just energized and fueled by this incredible moment.
David Moss: Talk a little bit about how you came up with these, and maybe it was partly for today's talk, but this idea of change of venue, wild perception, directed attention, everything real valuable. I really enjoyed that.
Stormy Sweitzer: In my talk, I mentioned that after I had this moment with the pedals, I ran another four miles. In those four miles ... This is something that's never happened to me ... I had what I've heard some people refer to as a download where a model for what had just happened to me formed fully in my brain, where I had practices that were helpful, the conditions that led to this experience, the physical, cognitive and emotional factors that played a role into it and the consequence of this thing, and so I had this model in my head and as I read over the next month, I just found more and more support for this in what other people had written about experiences like this. But I had also studied cognition a bit early on for the work that I had done and had been exposed to things that helped me really say, "Okay, these things I experienced can be amplified by these things I've also heard about." And so I just developed practices for myself out of that experience and that framework that emerged to that became really, really helpful in my own life.
David Moss: It's amazing and a little overwhelming to think that a single experience, sometimes just a single moment, as in Stormy's case, can shape the course of our lives. As dramatic as this is, I recognize the truth in this idea of practice. Like most things in our lives, what we provide room for, what we feed, what we spend time with, those are the things that grow and survive. The moments are sparks. The practice we devote can grow sparks into something much bigger, but sometimes it takes a little time for everything to line up.
Stormy Sweitzer: I went through this two year period of such intense creative production, book proposal, developed a workshop, I was doing some public speaking and then I'd completely shifted. I ended up working on a project with my ex-husband and my entire focus shifted to that and I just dropped everything else and it felt right. It felt like it wasn't the time to do that until I got an invitation to join the PhD program. I applied obviously, but-
David Moss: When they said, "Come on down."
Stormy Sweitzer: They said, "Come on down," and they said, "Come study wonder because that was the thing."
David Moss: Oh my gosh.
Stormy Sweitzer: I didn't even plan to study it, right? I told them I wanted to study leadership, but throughout the day I said, "And by the way, I have this interest in wonder," and that was the thing that they kept saying, "Well, that's the interesting thing." And so by the end of the day, I wasn't even talking about leadership. Just wonder was the thing.
David Moss: Is wonder a window to meaning?
Stormy Sweitzer: Why not?
David Moss: It seems like people are having these great experiences and they're converting that.
Stormy Sweitzer: It can.
David Moss: It elevates, that you can take meaning out of it.
Stormy Sweitzer: I think we have to remain open, but I think we have to spend some time thinking about these things and reflecting on them because something's only meaningful in context, right? It's meaningful in relationship to something else happening in our lives, and it's when we take the time to understand that relationship that it gains significance. And so I don't think as a culture we have developed practices of reflection and self-awareness. But I think those are the things that really help us with building meaning in our lives, and wonder can be one of those things that sort of jolts us.
David Moss: Hi Tricia.
Trisha Previte: Hi.
David Moss: Welcome to Wake Up Call.
Trisha Previte: Thanks for having me.
David Moss: Here we are at Creative Mornings Cleveland in the medical technology castle.
Trisha Previte: Castle's a good word for it.
David Moss: It feels like a glass castle here of of ideas.
Trisha Previte: Yah, almost like Superman's ice fortress.
David Moss: Yeah, totally. I think we are all superheroes. And so Wonder Woman. Are you a fan?
Trisha Previte: Absolutely.
David Moss: Why did they choose wonder?
Trisha Previte: I mean, maybe because she's such a powerful female figure and I think women are really capable of embodying that sense of wonder and seeing the world around them in a really interesting way and then taking that and doing creative powerful things with it.
David Moss: Well, talk about wonder for you. Do you have a creative outlet that brings you wonder and joy?
Trisha Previte: Oh, I have lots of creative outlets.
David Moss: Okay.
Trisha Previte: I reach for wonder every day. I have a daily practice where I write and draw at least once a day.
David Moss: Nice.
Trisha Previte: And I normally do it late at night and my roommates are asleep and I'm awake and everything's quiet and lovely and there's this sense of calm and I can access that creative magic.
David Moss: Talk about what that feels like when the whole world's asleep and you're wide awake.
Trisha Previte: Yeah, so I heard recently someone define worship as paying attention, and that's what I feel when I do that every night. When I take time to do that practice, it's like worshiping my own creative power and the world's creative power and what that has to offer.
David Moss: For Trisha, finding wonder through ritual and paying attention or worshiping her craft, as she put it, is another way of putting wonder into practice. You're listening to Wake Up Call. We'll be right back.
David Moss: What's your favorite comic book? Trouble deciding between Little Bird or 30 Days of Night or maybe something more classic like Secret Wars or The First Shadow? Join George, Jason and John as they talk about all things comics on the podcast Drawn and Paneled, spanning the '70s to today. That's Drawn and Paneled, a production of GenXGrownUp.
David Moss: Welcome back to Wake Up Call. Today we're exploring wonder. Heather is a creative professional and a mom. She has a five year old son. And like Trisha and Stormy, she also does her best to practice wonder.
David Moss: There was this conversation today about the conditions of wonder. I thought that was really interesting. What do you think are some conditions of wonder for you in your life or in your life's work?
Heather Roberts: I'm kind of a stand back and take it all in sort of person anyway, so that usually inspires wonder.
David Moss: Okay, so you're in the practice of-
Heather Roberts: I try to. I really enjoy-
David Moss: The practice of pause.
Heather Roberts: Yes. Well, it's hard sometimes, but then sometimes if you do pause too long, I've found people will be like, "Hey, why you take so long to talk?" In this day and age, they expect you to be like-
David Moss: Well, this world, it's not designed for pause.
Heather Roberts: No, it's not designed for pause.
David Moss: Which can kind of squelch improvisation and thoughtfulness. Maybe it's why we have a mindfulness movement afoot.
Heather Roberts: It is.
David Moss: Percolating.
Heather Roberts: And something I've found too, she's talked about this at the end where the practice. You don't meditate and, "Oh hey, I've reached nirvana." It's the practice. It's doing it.
David Moss: At the beginning of the episode, we mentioned growing up, and how this growing up can sometimes cause us to wonder a little less each day. What is one of the most obvious reminders we have to slow down and wonder? Kids. Now, I know that kids can really make life hectic, but if we're able to,, on occasion get in their world a little bit, I think we can rediscover some of our own wonder. I mentioned Heather has a five year old son, so I asked her when was the last time her son wondered?
Heather Roberts: Last night, he had fallen asleep really early and I had to wake him up to go potty, so he was sitting on the potty. He goes, "Mommy, do you know which animal makes no noise at all? Let me tell you what it is. It's a shark." I said, "Oh, okay, yeah, sharks don't make sound." And then he goes, "How does a shark go?" How do I answer this question? "Well, he swims. A shark swims," so just that moment of what is going through his head.
David Moss: We might all do well to have someone else think this about us from time to time. Wonder isn't about the obvious or the known. Wonder is big. It's full of possibilities. Is that maybe why we wonder less as we get older? Are we uncomfortable with enormity, with unknowns? Maybe we should start letting the children we interact with rub off on us a little more. Back to Stormy Sweitzer. She says it in a slightly more pointed fashion.
Stormy Sweitzer: I think we actively teach people, children, to stop wondering, like, "Why do you ask so many questions?"
David Moss: Well, yeah.
Stormy Sweitzer: That's a clear message to stop wondering.
David Moss: Wow. This is what we do, isn't it? I don't want to make a massive generalization, but that sounds pretty common. Sometimes we just shut wonder down.
Stormy Sweitzer: But do you know how many people navigate this planet like they're undercover? They're these undercover creatives and wonder-like beings that have been told they have to hide that part of themselves because it's not acceptable in the world of work or you have to grow up, you have to be responsible, you have to be all of these things. And that's what we teach kids. And so by the time we get to high school, right, we've-
David Moss: Suppression.
Stormy Sweitzer: Yeah, we've already learned that you have to show up a particular way if you want to be accepted, and so wonder stops. We end up conforming to what we find to be acceptable to others. And often, that means shedding the parts of ourselves that are probably most valuable to us.
David Moss: What are the consequences of losing wonder? I can't help but think how my world would be different if that weren't the case. I wondered and imagined and dreamt of all kinds of things as a kid. I like to think that I still have a lot of that, but I'm not sure. It's different now. Maybe that's okay. Maybe I need to reclaim some of my own wonder. It seems that as we grow up, we all succumb to some degree of getting real.
David Moss: I love this quote by Van Gogh, and I'm going to try and remember it a little more often. Here's how it goes. "I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream." There's another quote, and if I get this right, it says, "When nothing is certain, everything is possible." And one of the beautiful things to Thomas Fox, the leader for Creative Mornings Cleveland would say is "We're all creative," and we really have to let all these rules go and let the sparks drive. I think we can all take some inspiration from Van Gogh and look up at the stars every once in awhile.
David Moss: Listeners might appreciate this. I grew up in rural Cuyahoga County outside of Cleveland, maybe an hour east. We could ride our big wheels and our green machines down to the Lawson's to get ourselves a Bomb Pop or a push-up Popsicle and drag our hollow plastic toy trikes up the hill, up the sidewalk. We had an old wagon that my buddy Lance and I would get on top of with a quarter inch thin plywood deck and these fly wheels. It was an old newspaper delivery wagon that my grandfather had built. We'd get on top of this hill at the end of this, it was really a subdivision. It was sort of a suburban-style neighborhood with two miles of woods behind it, so it was the best of both worlds, I guess.
David Moss: And we'd ride this wagon down the hill as fast as we can go. Most times we'd lose control. The whole point was wondering what would happen at the bottom of the hill. We knew that it was about a 90% chance that we would crash. Now, if we really get going fast enough and hold control of this wagon, we'd hit a large dirt pile at the end of the cul-de-sac that then dropped off maybe 10 feet and we would ramp like Calvin and Hobbs into the sky laughing on our way to a sure, bruised, pile up, battered landing. And there was all kinds of that.
David Moss: And I do remember where wonder really took off for me outside of starting art lessons at an early age and really enjoying that was seeing my dad build a sandbox. I remember the day they brought that dump truck and backed it up through our backyard, through the trees because it was very tight and dumped that entire dump truck of sand into my sandbox. And I would be out in that sandbox some days all day. Then, my mother would actually bring me lunch out to the sandbox. Just me. A lot of times my cousins, some neighborhood friends, we would just make these giant castles and mountains and dig all the way under and then it would fall on your arms all the way up to your shoulder, that cold sand, and you'd share the sandbox with an infinite number of bugs and hickory nuts and daddy long legs. You'd just let them walk all over your arms. And it was a thing that maybe reminds me that I'm always going to be that kid in the sandbox. We didn't have a lot of things, but we had wonder.
David Moss: Wake Up Call is a production of Evergreen Podcasts, a proud member of the Front Porch Media Network. Special thanks to executive producers, Joan Andrews and Michael DeAloia, producer and audio director, Dave Douglas, account manager, Connor Standish. Thanks to Two Bob Crew for the use of their song Rooster, available on iTunes. And if you would please like and review this program. It really helps. Learn more about this and other podcasts from Evergreen at evergreenpodcasts.com. Wake Up Call. Ideas that crow.