November 17, 2023
Associate Professor of Communication Dr. Jim Shores recently co-published an article in the Journal of Experiential Education that looks at inspiration in response to natural landscapes. Co-authors of “The Experience of Inspiration in Natural Landscapes: Awe, Wonder, Sublimity, and Bergson’s Qualitative Multiplicity” also included Dr. Brad Daniel (Western Carolina University) and Dr. W. Brad Faircloth (University of North Carolina at Asheville): https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/10.1177/10538259231205291
“The article found that inspiration is a key component of creativity and human flourishing,” Shores said. “Our past study found that people in the outdoors were most often inspired by vertical expanses, new and novel experiences, overcoming personal challenges, and direct experiences of place.”
According to Shores, these activities could include exploring mountains, waterfalls, and cliffs; tidepooling a rocky coastline and horseback riding in a canyon; hiking a challenging trail and scaling a mountain; and experiencing an event directly vs. reading about it or watching it on a screen.
Their most recent study added new information, namely that when people report being inspired, the components of that inspiration are often awe, wonder, and sublimity.
Shores explores the implications of each component.
“We are in awe when we encounter something vast that requires us to create new mental categories for what we’re experiencing,” Shores said. “Wonder is more cognitive. It causes us to lean in, to study something, wanting to learn more about it. Sublimity is where fear and awe meet in equal portion. This is the feeling at the top of a roller coaster, walking the edge of a cliff, or swimming with sea lions. It’s exhilarating, but it is not without fear.”
Shores offers encouragement and thoughtful questions for readers.
“If inspiration is important for creativity and well-being, when have you last purposefully positioned yourself to be inspired by a natural landscape?” he said. “Inspiration causes us to have exciting new ideas. It makes us want to create something new. If you are feeling stuck, go out and touch some grass – go for a hike, plan that trip to Yosemite, or simply stand in awe of that gorgeous tree in the park. Make space for those things, because who knows what they might inspire you to do next?”
Shores received his M.S. in Environmental Science from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and his Ph.D. in Communication Studies from Regent University. His academic research surrounds entertainment-education and environmental communication. Shores is also a playwright and runs Acts of Renewal (a professional Christian touring company) with his wife, Carol Anderson.
The Asbury University Communication & Theatre Department offers two majors (in Communication and Theatre) and five minors (in Communication, Leadership, Public Relations, Social Media, and Theatre). Learn more: https://www.asbury.edu/academics/departments/communication-theatre/.
The Asbury University Media, Journalism, and Digital Storytelling department offers majors in Media Communication and Multimedia Journalism. Online majors include Digital Content Creation and Instructional Design & Media. Graduate programs include the M.A. in Digital Storytelling; the M.A. in Instructional Design, Innovation & Leadership; the MFA in Film & Television Production, and the MFA in Screenwriting. Learn more: https://www.asbury.edu/academics/departments/media-journalism/.