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Mindful : June 2014
June 2014 mindful 37 Museums and galleries remain among the few oases that can deliver what has become increasingly rare in our world: the oppor tunity to disconnect from our hyperconnected lives and experience the feeling of wonder. Museums are where we go to commune with the permanent, the ineffable, and the unquantifiable. Maxwell Anderson, the CEO of the Indianapolis Museum of Art, describes a museum’s mission as providing visitors with “res- onance and wonder...an intan- gible sense of elation—a feeling that a weight was lifted.” What Aristotle called “catharsis.” My younger daughter Isa- bella, an ar t histor y major, was given an assignment to spend two hours in a museum in front of a painting and write down her experience. She described the assignment as both “exhilarat- ing and unsettling: unsettling because I realized that I have never seen a painting and exhil- arating because I was finally seeing one.” She had chosen to look at J.M .W. Turner’s The Fighting Temeraire in the National Galler y in London, and she describes the process of looking at the painting for t wo hours as “parallel to going on a long run. As odd as it sounds, looking at a painting for two Excerpted from Arianna Huffington’s Thrive: The Third Metric To Redefining Success and Creating a Life of Well-being, Wisdom and Wonder, © 2014 Christabella, LLC. Published by Harmony Books. Reprinted with permission. Finding Wonder Excerpted from Thrive by Arianna Huffington hours requires you to push yourself and go past the point of what’s comfor table. But what was so interesting was that when I was finished I had what felt like a runner’s high. I felt like I had just experienced something magical, that I had created a tie bet ween the ar t piece and me.” She’d had an experience that cannot be cap- tured on Instagram or Twitter. After she had been looking at The Fighting Temeraire for about an hour, a security guard came up to her and asked what she was doing. “I found this hilarious because what I was doing was looking at a painting. But we have gotten to the point where someone standing in front of a painting just looking at it for a long period of time is suspect.” Fully giving our at tention to anything—or anyone—is pre- cisely what is becoming more and more rare in our hyper- connected world, where there are so many stimuli competing for our time and attention and where multitasking is king. The museum experience provides us with myster y, wonder, surprise, self-forget- fulness—vital emotions most undermined by our always-con- nected 24/7 digital culture, which makes it a lot easier to shy away from introspection and reflection. Increasingly, the world around us, or at least the one that’s presented to us by the tool we choose to surround ourselves with, is designed— and ver y well, at that—to take that element of surprise out of our path. The ever-more-so - phisticated algorithms on the social media sites where we live our lives know what we like, so they just keep shoveling it to us. It’s celebrated as “person- alization,” but it often caters to a very shriveled par t of who we really are. They know what we like but they don’t know what we don’t know we like—or what we need. They don’t know our possibilities, let alone how vast they are. ●