Episode 5: The Museum of Awe Dwells within Us All Feat. David Delgado and Dan Goods
The Museum of Awe Dwells within Us All Feat. David Delgado and Dan Goods of NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory and The Museum of Awe.
Episode 05: Show Notes
Today we're talking to David Delgado and Dan Goods, founders of The Museum of Awe, which they describe as a playhouse of curiosity aimed to blow your mind. As Visual Strategists with The Studio at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, they draw on their art and design backgrounds to create experiences that activate people's imaginations and invite them to think more deeply about the questions that drive science and technology forward. However, they developed the Museum of Awe outside of NASA to leave visitors feeling the gift and privilege of being alive.
Key Points From This Episode:
• Understanding The Orbit Pavilion.
• The idea behind The Museum of Awe.
• The goal of having more questions asked as supposed to giving answers.
• The uninhibited curiosity of younger children as a mindset to strive for as the gateway to awe.
• Being apart of a way to change people for the better.
• How fear brings people closer together.
• Why old people that are still super curious are always the most fascinating people.
• Finding the basic essence of something.
• Caring about people understanding things.
• Barriers versus tribalism.
• How things have taken a turn in terms of catastrophic issues.
• The power that's held within the creative sort of people of this world.
• Money being the tool of being able to evoke emotion from people into something not so good.
• Being proud to be human.
• The connection between awe and religion.
• The vision for the museum.
• Leaving people with a new perspective.
• The next projects Dan and David are working on.
• That idea of engaging our senses.
• What a gift and privilege it is to be alive.
• And much more!
“I don't want to just communicate ideas, I want them to be powerful and meaningful.” — @dangoods [0:02:03.0]
“I guess we’re trying to make something that we go in and are blown away ourselves.” — David Delgado [0:09:03.0]
“There’s something about the fear that’s involved with it that really just brings people a little bit closer together.” — @dangoods [0:12:07.0]
“The old people that are still like super curious are always the most fascinating people.” — @dangoods [0:17:29.0]
“I love ideas that promote the change of emotion or change of thought.” — David Delgado [0:33:48.0]
“We all have a desire to find and to make meaning and to find the big questions in life.” — David Delgado [0:42:20.0]
Links Mentioned in Today’s Episode: 15:48
Awe in the Raw – https://www.katherinelockhart.com/podcast/
David Delgado — http://www.davidjdelgado.com/
Dan Goods — http://www.directedplay.com/
Dan on Twitter — https://twitter.com/dangoods
Museum of Awe — http://museumofawe.org/
Jason Klimoski of Studio KCA — http://www.studiokca.com/index.php
Shane Myrbeck — https://shanemyrbeck.com
EPISODE 05: Transcript
[0:00:10.1] KL: You’re listening to Awe in the Raw, I’m your host, non-fiction author, Kate Lockhart. This show lifts the curtain on natures quiet dance with the human mind as I take you through the process of researching and planning my next book and what I reveal is pretty risqué. That is, if you’re a nerd like me, who gets off on interviews with scientists, authors, artists and trailblazers, all asking the burning question: ‘How can we live more happily connected to nature, ourselves and each other?’ Yeah, I know, it sounds pretty corny actually but it may just be the most revolutionary idea of our times.
Stick around and you’ll overhear wildly diverse conversations, positive psychology, neuroscience, integral ecology, animal rights, non-violence, addiction, thrill-seeking, enlightenment, oppression and futurism in abundance. Every season will explore a different angle for a new book with an episode released every Friday for you weekend pleasure. This season we tease out the power and promise of awe. I recommend you start at Episode 01.
And now away we go.
[0:01:24.4] KL: This show happens for you and because of you, so my warm thanks goes out to everyone who supports it through subscribes, views, shares and donations. If you also enjoy the content, consider hitting the subscribe button on Pod Catcher, It’s a free and easy way to say “Hey, keep up the good work.” And if you want to play a larger part in running the show, head to patriot.com/katelockhart. Where your pledge of a dollar an episode buys quality editing for the show and exclusive monthly Q&A’s for you. Win win, is good good.
[0:02:03.1] DG: I don’t' want to just communicate ideas, I want them to be powerful and meaningful and something that you remember and that causes, you know, your goosebumps you know? We don't get to have that very often and it's sad, right? Now I can just look at all the internet stuff and skip through it super-fast and just kind of get like if I don't get something in two seconds, I move on to something else. There is no time for awe, you know?
I got to get on to the next video or the next post or the next whatever and but, you know, I want to have a moment where you can go away and bump into something that you least expect it you know? Then all of a sudden, you're like, “man, this universe is amazing. There's something good about this place.”
[0:02:53.1] KL: Today we're talking to David Delgado and Dan Goods, founders of The Museum of Awe, which they describe as a playhouse of curiosity aimed to blow your mind. As Visual Strategists with The Studio at NASA's Jet Propulsion Lab, they draw on their art and design backgrounds to create experiences that activate people's imaginations and invite them to think more deeply about the questions that drive science and technology forward. However, they developed the Museum of Awe outside of NASA to leave visitors feeling the gift and privilege of being alive. I caught up with them at the lush and stately Huntington Botanical Gardens, where the warm Pasadena sun glows against their large-scale exhibit, The Orbit Pavilion. It nestles in a clearing of willow trees. You can hear the gravel crunching underfoot as David gives a toddler the tour.
[0:03:47.4] KL: The Orbit Pavilion is a shiny metal nautilus, big enough for groups of people to walk into and to crane their necks to look at the open convex roof high above. But hearing, not seeing, is the sensory experience of the day. In collaboration with composer Shane Myrbeck and architect Jason Klimoski of Studio KCA, the guys produced an innovative "soundscape" experience representing the movement of the International Space Station and 19 Earth Science satellites. As each satellite moves along its orbit, unique sound events emit from the speakers that align with the satellite's actual path. The combinations create an mesmerizing symphony of undulating sounds that include a human voice, the crashing of a wave, a tree branch moving, and a frog croaking, all which play during our conversation, like here, when David explains the idea behind the Museum of Awe.
[0:04:53.3] DG: But I don’t know, I think that when Dan called me up, he had a good friend who asked him to — he’s like, “Hey, you should start The Museum of Awe,” and we started talking about it and then it started, I mean, we didn’t know what to make out of it. But just that notion of that, “Hey, well, it’s real,” you know? This is a real thing, it’s not fake, it’s not manufactured. It's an emotion that we get that is perhaps unique to humanity but it's in reaction to the way in which we see the world and how we understand it. Then it started to make sense. Well, we're in it, right? This is it, we're in it, right now, we're in this great museum, it's all around us, it is the world, it is the universe.
[0:05:33.7] KL: I love that.
[0:05:35.0] DD: You know, we want to try to bring people to that in a variety of different ways that can open up their eyes to make them want to see more. In some ways it's sort of like an initiator to get people to do it on their own, it's not like, this is the beginning of this experience and the end.
[0:05:54.1] DG: Awe is only right here.
[0:05:57.5] KL: Come here, admission, $20.
[0:06:15.0] DG: Yea, exactly.
[0:06:01.7] DD: Taster’s course for cooking yourself.
[0:06:03.0] DG: If you give a hundred dollars then you get a little bit more on.
[0:06:07.2] DD: Yeah, more.
[0:06:10.1] DG: You go outside that door, there’s no awe.
[0:06:13.4] DG: Advanced awe.
[0:06:16.9] KL: That you were talking about your whole goal is to have more questions being asked to give good questions as supposed to give answers and it sounds like, I mean, that's what it is, you walk away from something like this, you have more questions, not answers really.
[0:06:32.1] DG: Yeah, I think it's just deeper inside of you if their question's coming from you versus like answers being given to you.
[0:06:41.5] DD: I think it's super important because in a lot of our life, we're sort of trained not to have those anymore, you know? Put your hand down.
[0:06:50.8] DG: My wife was –
[0:06:51.2] DD: We don’t have time for this.
[0:06:53.7] DG: My wife was a teacher and she felt like the students only cared about just tell me what the answer is, you know? Because I need to write the answer down and not, “what is this about?” You know, “help me understand,” you know, “what is this really all about?” It was really just, “give me answers. I need to write those down then I can forget about them as soon as the test is done.”
[0:07:14.7] KL: Because that’s what they were trained to do, right? Yeah, no time for the questions, you’re annoying me, you’re the kid that just keeps on raising your hand. This one time in band camp –
[0:07:25.6] DD: Yeah, right, exactly. Okay, put your hand up. Yeah, I don’t know, I spent some time working with kids, you know? From like time when you go around and it’s amazing you think you know, here I am, I think I’m going to be like this cool guy who doesn’t have the rules that is in there.
But you start to initiate this conversation, you just try to get things going and it’s amazing that why aren’t there so many questions– there weren’t like hands in the air, there was no pressure from I guess, at least from my perspective from the situation but I didn’t see like a huge amount of natural intellectual curiosity.
It was sort of like, you know, “this is maybe what we’re learning” or “this might be what the teacher would have” – the lower end age group you get, you do start to see that. It’s like, you know, you get my favorite, you know, first grade, second graders and kindergarteners. You can’t get their hands down, you know?
[0:08:21.1] KL: He considers this uninhibited curiosity of younger children as a mindset to strive for, as if it's the gateway to awe…
[0:08:30.6] DD: The funny thing, the questions that they ask are just off the wall, you know? You know, I think that maybe is where it comes from is just the desire to get people to ask more questions, deeper questions, have ourselves ask more questions.
Those are the questions that we have to ask ourselves as we’re making things, you know?
[0:08:49.3] KL: That’s true, you’re in the process, you’re living it when you’re creating these experiences for other people. You kind of have to be the guinea pigs and get out there.
[0:09:03.7] DG: Yeah, I mean, you know, I guess we’re trying to make something that we go in and are blown away ourselves you know? We don’t want to do something that’s like partially there. I don’t want to just communicate ideas, I want them to be powerful and meaningful and something that you remember and that causes, you know, your goosebumps you know? We don't get to have that very often and it's sad, right?
Now I can just look at all the internet stuff and skip through it super-fast and just kind of get like if I don't get something in two seconds, I move on to something else. There is no time for awe, you know? I got to skip through 50 more, no time for awe. That's right. I got to get on to the next video or the next post or the next whatever and but, you know, I want to have a moment where you can go away and bump into something that you least expect it you know? Then all of a sudden, you're like “man, this universe is amazing. There's something good about this place.”
[0:10:09.8] DD: Can I tell you what I love about Dan? This is so funny too because Dan always is like “yeah, it’s like right in front of my face” but I just didn’t. He’s always, maybe it’s because – you’re always just a little bit ahead of everybody else.
Maybe I had it, yeah, that’s it, you’re ahead of yourself, there’s something about him that’s ahead of himself because you know, it comes to life and I find it so interesting but the reason why I think it’s ahead is because you know, we’ve been playing around with this idea for a couple of years.
But man do I feel like we need it right now, it’s like, the world needs it so badly to just feel that sense of not only a connection to nature and a respect for nature but a connection to each other and a respect for each other and it’s so great for people like Dr. Kellner and all of the social psychologists who are looking at that to actually really kind of suss out and figure out how does that actually work and what are the mechanisms that actually happen in your body to do it.
But in the end, what’s really cool is that it does work and that it does bring people together, you know? From that perspective, I mean, my god, that’s exactly would be the coolest thing ever to be a part of – that’s what we’re really trying to do, we want to be apart of you know, a way to help change people for the better, hopefully, you know?
Through art and through all of the things that we want to create with it.
[0:11:36.2] DG: Yeah, because really when people get done with our little demo that we have, people do always, there’s a sense of – there are moments of – I wouldn’t call it fear but you’re nervous, what would you call that like.
[0:11:47.2] DD: Yeah, it’s like uncertainty.
[0:11:48.8] DG: Uncertainty, yeah, and then when you make it through, when you go through uncertainty with a group and you finish and it’s a good finish, then you feel like this weird bond that you didn’t have before versus like, if you just go and look at a whole bunch of objects and you just kind of go, you know, “I kind of got that.” There’s something about the fear that’s involved with it that really just brings people a little bit closer together.
Even though I walk in a perfect stranger with you, I feel like if I sat next to you on the train, I’d feel comfortable.
[0:12:20.5] KL: Yeah, I love that because I mean, really, you think about how crisis brings people together, right? Let’s not have a crisis experience.
[0:12:30.5] DD: Yeah, right.
[0:23:35.1] DG: We need more crisis, that’s so funny.
[0:12:41.1] KL: There's that fear component of awe again, the one that Jakada Imani was talking about in Episode 4. But instead of being terrified of something we don't understand, we can let our guards down and ask questions about it. And, this seems to be the critical factor that keeps emerging, to the extent that we have others to share the experience with, we can grow in connection and wonder.
[0:13:19.1] KL: Embracing the unknown is at the heart of all good science, of all good art, and of any worthy inquiry. The emotion of awe pushes us to do just that. So we come to the discussion of emotion as being integral to asking good questions, of being mindful students of the universe. This can run contrary to some people who won't consider something worthy of attention unless it is scientific, which they see as being rational and thus separate from emotion.
[0:13:49.5] DD: Yeah, there’s a huge group of people like that because they are like, “we only pay attention to scientific research,” you know? That’s what I think is so cool about the greater good science center in general is that, then you realize that there is just this, a very – not necessarily one sided but sort of a limited range of the scope of our understanding of scientific understanding of our human emotion.
The complexities of our emotional system and what that actually does for us and for other people and like that idea of like studying empathy and awe and compassion and those things and how greatly they can affect us, you know, in our lives.
It’s something that normally relegated to religious kind of ideas or Eastern kind of philosophies or something but it wasn’t part of like Western science, you know? If anything, that was like, “don’t show emotion, you don’t need that,” you know?
That to me was like a big eye opener, thinking like wow, there’s something huge about this. That word just sort of stumbling in to, as we study and try to figure out what it is that we’re – it feels like we’re standing in front of something really big that we don’t fully understand yet.
[0:15:00.5] KL: I completely agree and that’s what’s so cool about it and you know, I feel like I’ve been sort of always seen emotion and empathy especially, you know, it’s being obvious, critical factors in being human and having a social experience, communities. But there is a very big sort of rational sort of thing that came on during the enlightenment.
This mindset that emotions were sort of relegated as something less than or not real to be taken into consideration but that’s just kind of a joke you know? We’re clearly emotional beings.
[0:15:42.6] DG: Yeah, right, yeah.
[0:15:43.7] KL: You can’t just say that’s not going to work for us right now, you know?
[0:15:47.1] DG: Right, yeah.
[0:15:48.0] DD: It’s kind of interesting too I think because we’re thinking a lot about this is that, you know, everybody sort of brings their own experience into the door like whenever they’re about, try to elicit the emotion of awe, it depends on who you’re talking to, you know?
What they’ve experienced before and what they have. It’s kind of interesting too is that as kind of we all move on, there’s a whole lot of people that have just lived inside cities their whole life.
There’s a whole lot of people – this may sound crazy but who haven’t seen like a really starry night sky before which is kind of crazy. I feel all of us were – even me, I tried to get out as much as I can, I’m around different things but it’s still hard and so like I feel like in general, our culture, we kind of pulled further and further back from our connection to being in sort of these natural environments all the time.
[0:16:44.7] DG: Kind of controlled cubicle, right?
[0:16:45.2] DD: That’s where we have to go.
[0:16:47.8] DG: I love what Dan always says it’s like we need to be like kids again.
[0:16:51.8] KL: Yeah.
[0:16:52.1] DG: Then in a way, it’s like sometimes we kind of are, it’s like we just going out and getting away from our standard run of the mill city life and going out and seeing things, you’re like “wow, I’ve never seen, what is that?”
[0:17:07.1] KL: I wondered if it's as simple as living by the motto, 'Let's be kids again’?
[0:17:13.8] DD: I mean, if you have – having kids, you know, when they’re a certain age, just like everything is super amazing, right? “Look at that.” We lose that and so we’re in line. We found that like a JPL or just anywhere. The people that are, the old people that are still like super curious are always the most fascinating people.
[0:17:33.4] DG: Yeah.
[0:17:34.1] DD: “What is that?” Versus like, “stupid,” you know, when I was a kid, it wasn’t like you know, it’s like people there are just always like, “what is this thing?” Figure it out and those are the people that I think they get more out of life. I think they get more out of life.
[0:17:50.7] DG: It’s true. It’s so weird because I think like the difference between those people and kids is that kids, you may find something on the ground and you’re really interested in it but you don’t have a real strong sense of limitations of what this could be, if you don’t understand it, you know?
Then your imagination takes over and it turns – it could be this amazing thing, right? It may not be but it could be. I think one of the things that’s kind of cool about the adults that do that and I’m not sure this is true but it’s like, if we imagine ourselves on this continuum of like, well, :we can’t do that now but we can do it maybe a little bit in the future.”
Seeing yourself as part of that makes you sort of opens that up again as to like what could be possible in our – the realistic sense of humanity. It is not crazy science fiction but you know, the things that are out there that are just amazing.
[0:18:42.9] KL: Real possibilities.
[0:18:45.3] DG: Yeah, then, there’s just straight out things that are magnificent that either of us never experienced before.
[0:18:50.5] KL: That’s the thing, it’s like you mentioned cities and how so many people are in urban environments, they haven’t even seen a starry sky, a really – a truly starry sky and you know, the obviously the census bureau shows that we’re going to be pretty much 80% of our population is going to be in the cities.
We’re getting up on 19 billion, you know. You’re thinking, “how do you even keep it nature connection in that kind of experience?”
[0:19:21.8] DG: You put a headset on. Go to dark room, as long as the power doesn’t go out.
[0:19:29.7] DD: Exactly.
[0:19:34.1] KL: From the way they banter, it's obvious that David and Dan spend a lot of time thinking together, and know each other's thoughts. Kind of like playful twins. And that's what I love about these guys. They ARE like kids, even when they're making serious points, they have an air of playfulness that makes you feel safe, that there's more to come...that there's a secret they can't wait to reveal...that there's hope. We at least know that not a lot of good comes from NOT being curious.
[0:20:02.2] DG: I think I heard somewhere like in Chicago, there is big power outage and people had call up the police because they saw things up in the sky and they’re like, “what is that?” It was like the stars. Yeah, you’re looking at stars up there.
[0:20:23.2] DD: Yeah, I mean, since it’s hard to know what to do with this natural phenomenon. I’ve heard that people were shooting at the hurricane in Texas, you know, with their guns or like, “get out of here.”
[0:20:34.8] DD: I don't know but you know, it's just kind of interesting when you're presented with something that is just not normal. You have to kind of use this bag of tools that you developed to do your whole life and if it's outside of that, that's where you're like, “that's it, I don't even know,” you know?
[0:20:49.4] KL: Grab the gun, honey.
[0:20:50.9] DD: Yeah, grab the gun, you know what? It's not listening to my voice.
[0:20:55.1] KL: Add guns to fear of the unknown, and we have some major problems. So let's imagine a space ship moving all of us humans to a place of greater good (let's call this place...um...Earth). The act of asking questions is the space ship, sharing them with others is the space glue that holds the ship together (sorry, NASA, I am going to call it space glue for now), and feeling awe is the ship's fuel. What are the big meteors in our way, the ones that keep us from coming back to Earth? As we'll see, language and tribalist mentality plays a part.
[0:21:46.1] KL: As I was listening to Dan and David talk about satellite orbits and the technical aspects of everyday NASA science and engineering, it struck me that they both come from an art and design background. They're creatives, not scientists. In fact, Dan proudly talks about his school-era design concept of a musical taco truck that would play certain tunes thanks to hundreds of bottles mounted to its sides, perfectly angled to catch the wind at various notes. Clearly brilliant in its own right, this doesn't seem to match the engineering complexity of Cassini, for instance.
[0:22:21.6] KL: So you are talking about quasars and all of these and I am thinking about what I've learned from your past and your humble beginnings with the bottles on the truck and everything and both of you, how do you take in these insane concepts that science is sort of baring out?
[0:22:45.7] DD: I don’t want to speak for David but we’re not all that smart. So I think we just try to find where is the basic essence of something and we talk about the essence a lot and it takes a lot for us to ask simple questions like “what do you mean?” I don’t get that.
[0:23:13.8] DG: Why should we care.
[0:23:15.2] DD: Why should we care? That’s right and that is usually one of the biggest ones, why should I care and so I think we just ask these basic questions and neither of us have a PHD in anything. We don’t have a masters in anything, sometimes they will start talking about technical stuff and I am always like, “Whoa where did that come from?” you know? “David’s getting smart! Oh man!“ Sorry, no I didn’t mean it but yeah I think we are just trying to be clear you know?
And I found that different, every little tribe and a tribe could be engineers or artists or whatever else, they all develop a language and they develop a language that is really hard to understand and then it’s confusing. Then it even gets confusing within the tribe and there’s multiple splinters in the tribe and I think what we both try to do is try to get rid of all that tribalism, all that gobbly goop as you might say and what do you really mean and once we can get to that, then we go “Oh I get it”.
Maybe it’s like, “is it sort of like that?” Hopefully they shake their head up and down as yes versus no but eventually we get to a spot where we can understand it and it usually, hopefully we have stripped it all of these tribalist words that don’t allow us to understand what is actually going on and yeah.
[0:24:46.0] DG: Yeah, I mean it is continuously subtracting that we are trying to understand and I think what Dan mentioned is that trying to get to that basic thing of like the reason why would people get excited about that? Is that actually truly interesting to us.
[0:25:02.4] KL: Yeah, that’s all that matters.
[0:25:05.9] DG: That’s all that matters for our particular project and if it is then how do you keep that interesting without getting in the way of it and then doing something that hopefully takes that, allows questions to be developed from it you know?
[0:25:23.2] KL: Yeah and you guys are talking about that and I think about jargon and how a lot of the time and I mean knowing plenty of people in academia, it is there for a reason. It is there for function but it’s also there for status. There is definitely a status.
[0:25:46.4] DD: I sound really smart. I would sound really smart.
[0:25:50.9] KL: And I can speak this way so I fit into this group and I can rub elbows with you because I get this.
[0:25:59.0] DG: Yeah there is a pretty famous designer, Stefan Sagmeister, super great fellow who really feels and listens and I remember him talking about going to some big collection of scientist somewhere and he said, “Yeah, the first year I went there I couldn’t understand what they were saying and I felt stupid” and then he said, “Next year I went there and I couldn’t understand what they were saying and I realized they were stupid”. I was like, “Yeah, that’s right!”
[0:26:28.4] KL: That only took him two years? Good for him.
[0:26:33.8] DG: Yeah, it’s funny but getting to that kind of basic thing is what we are trying to do.
[0:26:40.6] KL: That is what I am thinking is that you know and this is same with art too right? Like there is the highfalutin arts community that people feel completely marginalized from because they are like I am not smart enough or initiated enough to be a part of this art appreciation world. When in reality these things are human. These are the first things that we did as developing humanoids and to think of it as being –
What you guys sound like you are really doing or you are stripping it away from all of the pretention and all of that to get back to the essence of it so that everybody can speak this language.
[0:27:24.7] DD: Yeah, that’s a great way of saying it, thank you.
[0:27:26.5] DG: Yeah, we need to write that down.
[0:27:29.0] DD: I think that is just part of who we are I think. I think David and I are not – I think we both care that people understand things and that’s part of our process of getting to that so yeah.
[0:27:42.7] DG: Yeah and I totally get why I think those systems are constructed in a way to shelter an industry or to make people feel more special or make you feel more special if you are doing something that costs a lot more money or what not but yeah, I mean I think that in the end, I think through and just speaking for me. I don’t want to speak for Dan either but at JPL you are seeing these things that are just huge. These ideas that are huge and they sort of think about things in a different scale.
You are landing on other planets or you’re discovering things for the first time and it puts you in place and perspective of what we’ve achieved all together as a whole up to now. It’s like, “We are only just getting to Mars, really?” and like, “Oh yeah we’re still on earth and will we ever be to do these things?” it takes all of those mechanisms that are meant to create blockades of communication, to enhance and reinforce one particular group.
Like all of that kind of stuff is not important when you are thinking about the big, big picture which is what we are interested in and so that maybe gets to it. It’s that whole like of species level thing, what is something that we’re naturally equipped to do and to understand and try to bring those aspects out that will help people share those other good things with somebody else.
[0:29:15.5] KL: Yeah, I love the thinking of awe being that sort of great equalizer in a way because the word tribalism has come up quite a few times already.
[0:29:27.4] DD: Oh yeah?
[0:29:28.7] KL: Yeah from both of you and it seems like there is something to if awe is something that makes us step back and see the big picture and sort of take a step back from all of those nitty-gritty details that people put into place to define and separate then in a way it is kind of a way of out tribalist kind of mentality. Would you say that? Do you think that might be the case?
[0:29:54.5] DG: I think it is going to be really interesting when the robots become more alive like artificial intelligence comes to the point where the future will. We will be talking to things around us or what we consider like sense fiction now but you know I think that humans, we will be very clear that we’re human.
[0:30:19.9] DD: I can’t wait for the iPod to go, “Oh my goodness! Man that song was so amazing” you know? “Did you hear those notes? Holy cow. Repeat, repeat, repeat.”
[0:30:40.1] KL: Did you catch that? I ask if awe serves as an antidote to tribalism and we go straight to playing with robots. How do you not love these guys? The best part is that the segue makes sense. When advanced AI robots flood onto the scene, our human differences will pale in contrast to our tin counterparts, and that might give us the same hit of common humanity that awe gives us now.
[0:31:04.5] DG: But I think there is one thing to that and when I think about that of like the notion of like I studied anthropology also and I love and also sometimes long for the old world where tribalism is more extreme in that you find uniqueness in culture and you don’t work McDonalds everywhere and so I don’t want to portray that word against individual unique very distinct cultural richness which obviously is great but there’s just – we are trying to make room for the big picture you know?
[0:31:39.1] KL: Yeah, I guess that is an important distinction to make but when you use the word tribalism, you’re not talking about uniqueness or cultural distinction or differences.
[0:31:49.0] DD: It’s more about barriers versus tribalism as a barrier like I don’t want to be next to you versus like I understand you. I can see where you are coming from or we’re all on this little dot and we need to work it out.
[0:32:08.1] KL: Luckily, we don't have to wait until the robots outnumber us to feel connected to each other and the planet. This is where the Museum of Awe comes in. It's not only a tool to unravel us from separatist language, it's an attempt at reclaiming some of our most precious human experiences, such as empathy or art appreciation, from the sticky fingers of consumerism.
[0:32:34.9] KL: I know this is kind of such an obvious question but would you say that you've noticed that things have taken a turn I guess in terms of catastrophic issues.
[0:32:47.5] DG: Well, yeah. On so many different levels, you know? I feel like we're coming up to this time where it's like, you know, a metaphor of like some great party that we've had, our whole human existence and now it's sort of the morning after and we're like, what happened, you know? You're starting to see all the data about what's going on with the earth and you're starting to understand that you know, there's a huge line of decisions that were like really bad decisions as far as us caring for our planet and you know, just political division, tribalism within our own country.
I think that everything has seemed to become a little bit more angry, a little bit more sort of unable to, like a lack of communication I think within our own country. Obviously, everybody knows and then internationally, I sort of feel, it's kind of funny because I studied advertising and art center, you know? I love the idea, I love ideas that promote the change of emotion or change of thought, you know? I am really like really unhappy with what that has led to, like that creativity, if we could use that creativity in a way that would help to change for the good and I know that sounds a little bit cliché but the power that's held within the creative sort of people of this world, it's just amazing, it's tremendous.
So far it's really been just been driven by money, you know? Part of I think really why Dan and I really connected is like, man, can we try to just shift that focus just a tiny little bit to kind of use some of that creativity to help to change people for the good. Can there be you know, a benefit that would allow that to happen, you know? That's sort of what we're searching for in a lot of ways too is that you know, of course we want to do it because all the reasons we talked about but it sort of feels like there's like a huge amount of people that want to do it. You know, we're just trying to create the mechanism to allow them to do that as well, you know?
[0:34:52.8] KL: Yeah, we need that, that’s the thing and you talk about like money being sort of the thing that changed, the tool of being able to evoke emotion from people into something not so good and that this could be the counter to that.
[0:35:08.1] DG: I mean, how many times have you watched a commercial that is epic and emotional and you’re about to cry and at the very end there’s like this logo on it and you’re just - you feel so empty, right? Why can’t we – why can’t there be a space where we can get rid of the logo and just have that emotion and feeling and there’s hundreds of creative, thousands of creative people around the world that would die to take the logo off and really just allow you to seep in that emotion and power.
[0:35:42.8] KL: Completely. That’s the question, right? We’re in the conundrum where there is a momentum gaining, that people want that, people are hungry for that experience, it’s authentic, it feels good and yet, how do we – our entire economy is completely builtup around the capitalist kind of system, how do we do that?
How do you do these things, these beautiful art installations that make people wonder and give people that feeling and I don’t know, is there even a possibility of creating an economy around that or, right?
[0:36:21.3] DD: that would be amazing. I’m thinking it may not even need that much, you know. To me, that’s too big of an idea. It’s too big of an idea to like rebuild the world and all of these structures that allow it to work, I can’t even, I’m not even close to smart enough to even fathom how that could happen.
There’s something that, Dan’s come across it and we’ve worked with it in our office and there’s something that happens when people at JPL, you’ll land on mars for the first time or you’ll do something that it sort of reaches out and does something that humans, we’ve never been able to do before and there’s a sense of pride like when that happens you know?
We’ve sort of summed it up in this sort of phrase, we just say, “it’s something that makes you proud to be human, “you know? We’ve integrated that in some of our previous work but it’s an ocean that’s pretty common at JPL because you’re like “yeah man,”– we’re doing this – you’re not only proud to be an American, you are.
You’re not only proud to be all the things you are, you are but you’re proud to like for your species you know? I think like that’s what we need more of. Because there’s a weird thing when you show that phrase to people, we have it on like a sticker that we made.
When you show that phrase to people, I’ve seen multiple different reactions but it really comes down to two. One, people look at that and they go like, “that’s crazy, why would I be proud to be human?” You know? They go, “that’s crazy.” Some people go, “Oh yeah," you can hear them, you can see them like looking in like going through their rolodex of stuff I did or things people do to figure, there are some things in there, you know?
I think maybe that’s a thing. If you can find more of those things, more reasons to be proud of our species, of course we have the whole spectrum but like focusing on those things and trying to say, this is who we are, let’s plant that flag, you know?
That, I think you know may be able to help people just know that there’s other options out there.
[0:38:26.1] KL: Indigenous peoples have a long tradition of telling the story of humankind. This has been embraced by nature connection practitioners, and is often referred to now as the Universe Story, the Origin Story, or the Big Story. The idea is to bring a sense of wonder and connection into the concept of being human, to bring greater perspective into our lives by balancing humanness with the story of the universe. I hadn't thought of it as pride before, but that's what it is. It's a pride that comes with a sense of belonging. A belonging to something much bigger than one person or tribe.
[0:39:14.8] KL: Richard Louvre talks about this and Scott Samson who wrote the book, How to Raise a Wild Child and talks about this idea of starting to tell the story of human and like where did we come from, you know? Take some time to just sit around to fire at the end of the day or sit around the dinner table. Just start riffing on this idea of like the human story and the universe story, you know? Any variation of it you want but they recommend doing that and like starting where you're at, who lived here before us, who lived here before them, you know?
[0:39:52.1] DD: Yeah, that is interesting. Yeah, I think in some ways, yeah, for sure. You're no long tapped. For that idea of like a timeline or you know, you're part of I guess the definition of awe right? You feel like you're part of something bigger than yourself. You're not trapped in your little place and time anymore, you're part of something much greater whether that be like your lineage or your history. You know, or your faith or whatever it is, you know?
[0:40:21.8] DG: You're part of even just the cycle of earth, you know?
[0:40:26.5] KL: Is awe sort of the missing link between religion and science in a way?
[0:40:33.0] DG: I don't know, I think it depends on what you attribute things to, you know? I think one thing that is interesting about awe is that – well, I think perhaps probably the connection with awe and religion is your like, these are the – look at the glory of the creation that's around us, right? From like a Christian perspective. Probably from other things too, it's like, “how did all of this come to be? “You know? It's like, there's one way to declare that “wow, this is clearly the result of something that I know “or as a question of like, “how did this come to – this is amazing, how did this happen?” You know? It's a human emotion that connects to multiple religions and multiple experiences and multiple – I think people would probably, from various religions would use awe to justify a way to talk about what their particular faith is.
[0:41:26.6] KL: Right.
[0:41:27.4] DG: I think it's just, I don't know, a reaction to being in something that is just really beyond our capability of understanding how it all came to be.
[0:41:38.1] KL: If you listen back on Episode 3, Sean Esbjorn-Hargens talks about how we humans each hang out at different developmental levels that determine how we see the world. When we're confronted with any phenomenon, we'll filter and interpret it through our worldview, which means that we can each arrive at different conclusions about the same phenomenon. I wonder if this glory of life that we experience is empirically the same thing, but just interpreted differently — such as God or spirit or physics. Just a thought, but if that's the case, couldn't we keep opening the lens wider, removing the details and definitions, until we agree on what we're experiencing?
[0:42:19.5] DD: And we all have a desire to find and to make meaning and to find the big questions in life like "where did I come from, why am I here, where did all of this come from.” I didn’t have all of the answers to that but when I do start to think about that, I have to admit that those questions do come up for me is like, “Am I part of this creation? How did this happen? Is it from God? Is it from something else?” I don’t know but it makes me ask those questions and I think those are good questions.
[0:42:50.6] KL: Yeah, it’s the mystery it sounds like. Like when we’re gob smacked with the mystery of what all these is.
[0:42:59.1] DG: There is also that sense of fear that we started talking about earlier, the awe, there is always and many times there is a mixture of fear as well and that’s also like if there really was someone who had the power to create all of these. "Holy cow, that’s pretty insane” you know? If you think of quasars our pools that has all this power and this little tiny spot and there are things that are the size of earth that spin a hundred times a second and that power is just scary right? And think about how things are created and that sort of that, that’s all wrapped up into this.
[0:43:49.1] KL: The trick is sharing it all with each other. Talk about scary. No doubt, talking about scary things is scary. Talking about things that make us uneasy or question reality is not quite dinner party etiquette. So we need to create a structure that cultivates an etiquette of fearless questioning. Like the Museum of Awe.
[0:44:25.3] KL: So what is your vision for the museum then? I've heard some of your vision but really, what are some of the nuts and bolts that you are putting into place to make this a reality for the long term? What's next?
[0:44:40.0] DD: Yeah, well right now we have a couple of demos and so that is the first step and we’re hoping those demos will turn into a funding but then we can start to show the world and I think like what we were talking about earlier just like it feels like the right time. It just feels like people are dying for unique authentic powerful experiences and –
[0:45:03.0] DG: That connect to truth and that’s the thing and that’s the important part. It’s not smoke in the mirrors, it’s all grounded in something that we’d accept scientifically as truth and something that’s real and that’s why it has power.
[0:45:21.9] DD: And then I guess, I mean I hope that we sort of want to curate it but it’s not like we’re the ones who are going to do everything like we want to harness the power of these tens of thousands of super creative people around the world that would much rather tell a story like that versus telling a branding story, you know?
[0:45:43.0] DG: And maybe they can do both, that’s the thing. You don’t have to choose one over the other.
[0:45:48.8] KL: That’s true, yeah. There’s room for both.
[0:45:49.3] DG: There’s room for both. Why can’t there be room for both?
[0:45:51.7] DD: They can make their money on those things and work on this for a project or something like that.
[0:46:00.0] DG: Because in the end, I mean it would be really cool to be able to have pop up experiences. So in general we describe it as a museum of experiences rather than museum of things. So we want to present experiences that are filled with art and food and theater but mixed together in a way that is always surprising. Keep people a little bit caught off guard but I mean ideally, we like to work to a point where we can create pop up experiences that would show up some place and then disappear you know? Maybe it is there for a few months and then gone.
[0:46:36.7] KL: Yeah, so how does somebody take that experience? Like it is a femoral just in coming and going but then the exhibit itself is disappearing as well and how do you – are there tools that you’ve imagined that you can put into place so that people can carry that with them, carry that experience with them?
[0:46:59.4] DD: That’s interesting. I know I guess we have talked about either books or even like a mini TV show or something like that kind of following people that had these awe inspiring moments and then just figuring what does that mean and that sort of thing. We’ve also talked about like a travel agency type of thing where you would take people to various places around the world that –
[0:47:20.8] DG: Sort of curating the world basically.
[0:47:22.9] DD: Yeah curating the world and doing it from that awe standpoint versus just going to visit a place and how can you take each step of the experience and make it special from the ticket that you got to the way in which you get to the location and all of those different things. Yeah, so those are few of the different things that we’ve talked about.
[0:47:46.4] KL: Do you have an example like something or an example projects like that or experience.
[0:47:52.5] DD: Well we have the Neiman Marcus version of it too. So you spend, you get a million dollar version of it as something where you don’t get told what it is. You’re just like one million dollars, you will be gone for three days or you know, however long and then you take them to Thailand and you take them to some forest there and in the forest is this amazing experience that you just never would have elsewhere.
[0:48:25.4] DG: But that is a pretty good idea to think about physical things that you can leave people with. I think the best thing that we can leave people with is just a way, sort of a new perspective. If we can help them reframe the way that they look at this thing that we live on, earth and where they are is like if they can think of it as the museum of awe that is just filled with almost a non-countable amount of collections that are there, that would be really cool.
I mean that would be really, really cool because then at its essence it just becomes sort of an idea. You know it’s like “yeah, we’re in that” and if you can have that frame of mind and I know the way I slip out of it like on a daily basis, right? But remembering that we are part of something special and trying to think of it from that perspective. I think that would be the most ideal takeaway ever is that people could walk away and be like, “Oh I live in the museum of awe,” you know? And sort of just instantly makes it more special.
[0:49:27.9] KL: You know that makes me think of deep nature connection. Some of the concepts around that or as the story of the day when you go out, the idea is to find yourself wondering and ask questions and when you basically push yourself to the edge of your questions until you can’t answer those questions anymore, you know? “What is that tree? What lives in that tree? Why does it leave in that tree?”
And just keep going or whatever it is but that is not a complete experience until you take it back to people and tell them about it and that’s where the processing, the experience really gets baked in and so I’m wondering you know that kind of have that on the spot moment where you get to record your experience in some way whether it’s like draw a picture of what you envision this as and they got to keep that in the frame or in a digital way or I don’t know. I’m sorry I am riffing now with this.
[0:50:32.8] DG: That’s amazing. No but that is great that is because it is a way to capture those ideas in a physical way that is yours, purely yours. That’s great.
[0:50:41.3] KL: Right just as some kind of reminder and the sharing of like a space.
[0:50:45.6] DG: Do you want to help us work on that part?
[0:50:46.8] KL: I would love to, no doubt. No kidding.
[0:50:50.4] DG: Yeah, I know. I think that is brilliant I think.
[0:50:56.1] KL: Yeah, I left that part of the tape in as a reminder to you guys — I’m in, Yeah so maybe the question that I really wanted to get to is what are the next projects that you are working on and what are your plans for them and who’s involved?
[0:51:11.3] DD: For the museum of awe specifically, yeah. How do we describe that one?
[0:51:20.6] DG: Because it’s I’m sure it is going to sound so funny on the radio but there are certain things that you know we don’t want to give away too much because so much is about surprise and it’s about experiencing things for the first time but within that, I don’t know, do you want to talk about some of the grains?
[0:51:41.7] DD: Grain of sand something like that? Yes, so we’ve worked on this project where we had a grain of sand and we’re able to drill a hole into it which was really cool right? It was a really tiny carbide drill bit and the hole is a 10th of the size of the grain of sand so it is really tiny and so the grain of sand represents the Milky Way galaxy. So we live in the Milky Way galaxy and there’s hundreds of billions of stars within the Milky Way.
So the hole represent where we live where earth is but also that hole represents where we found thousands of planets of other stars all within this little tine-tiny area. So we found thousands of planets within those little tiny area. We’re going to find tens of thousands more because we are just not – we don’t have the best technology to look let alone the rest of the galaxy. That’s just all within that little hole and then you need 60 rooms full of sand to show all the other galaxies that we know about.
And so we – that we know about yeah. So in fact it was really funny when I first did this it used to be six rooms of sand represented all the galaxies that we know about and it was literally this last year that they’re like, “Oh I guess we missed a couple of zeroes so it’s 60 rooms full of sand” and those are just galaxies.
[0:53:03.5] DG: Hundreds and hundreds of billions of stars.
[0:53:06.7] DD: Of galaxies and hundreds of billions of stars within a galaxy.
[0:53:13.4] DG: Yeah it’s really bizarre.
[0:53:15.6] KL: I can’t even fathom that.
[0:53:16.2] DD: Yeah, so what we are trying to create this experience where you sort of walk through these galaxies and then you look under the magnifying glass with that one hole into it.
[0:53:29.7] KL: So if the grain of sand is the milky way, the hole is all the thousands of exoplanets we know, and the entire universe is 60 rooms of sand, then we're going to need a lot more people to help convey all of the awesome that life has in store for us.
[0:53:47.9] DD: There's a whole bunch of different people that are interested in working with us and we're interested in working with them from magicians, an illusionist which is really great because if you want to direct people's attention they're really great at that sort of thing and also just the magical transitions between things is something that we really care about. Also I have been talking about this person who's a food experienced person. And trying to think about well if we had some sort of food experience through the thing. Food is something that is very tactile and you remember it, right? You put something in your mouth and you go, "Oh" let me know, was that good or bad or whatever and so we hope to incorporate that but we have been able to find a bunch of really interesting people that are just waiting for the moment that we get some funding to help us out with things.
[0:54:40.0] DG: Yeah, it's interesting though because like the idea of what Dan is saying of the senses. That idea of engaging our senses like our given senses, what do we have to perceive the world without any technology added on top of it, you know? And that's what we want to engage. We want to engage through taste and through feel and through sound and those when Dan said an authentic experience, I think that is what is rooted in. It's not a VR experience where you are seeing something that is not there. These are real things, all that you can perceive and sense and take in and hopefully point it to elicit this emotion that we are trying to do and that is why it takes so much testing because also in this world, we've been trained to turn some of our senses off to a certain extent you know?
[0:55:32.1] KL: There's a technical term for the act of filtering out stimuli from our environment--its called sensory gating. This is the heart of laser focus, a mind state that heavily engages the sympathetic nervous system and enables us to survive by by finding food and avoiding becoming food. However, a modern daily lifestyle that overly activates laser focus is linked to anxiety, depression, compulsion, and addiction. It also prevents us from being aware of our 54 senses. That's right, not 5 senses or even 6, but 54 including the ability to sense gravity or electromagnetic radiation. These have to be activated and mindfully cultivated. Author's note: Must return to that in a future episode…
[0:56:20.0] DG: Which is actually a lot, where this Orbit pavilion with the concept that it was rooted in because we went out to gold stone. Which is a facility for the deep space network where there, there is three areas around the world where they have a bunch of radio antennas pointing out at space. So there is this huge amount of traffic going back and forth from different space crafts around the solar system and earth but you can't see it, you can't smell it, you can't taste it. There is no evidence of it whatsoever unless you look at new technology but it's there and so I think that maybe it has been like a theme. That we just gravitated to for a really long time and we are trying to put in place here with the museum of awe is that we are human, we exists, we perceive, we interact with this world and it's real and there's things that are very special and it's authentic. It is not fake and we want to find the real things that elicit that emotion and kind of allow you to experience them.
[0:57:16.5] DD: And sometimes showing what our senses can’t detect which is a lot which is like most of everything as we can’t detect it and there are things that are flying through us right now. Lots of things that we just can’t see, we can’t hear, we can’t smell, we can’t touch, anything like that but they are all around us all the time and so giving people that sense as well of like wow, our sensors aren’t all that powerful there is a lot more out there and so sometimes that just blows you away because we’re being to these sensors.
[0:57:52.8] KL: Yeah, so in one level it's pushing our sensors to experience more and to wake up and then the other part is like, "Okay where they leave off here is a way to interpret that" let us know what is happening.
[0:58:08.7] DD: Yeah, exactly.
[0:58:09.0] DG: Yeah.
[0:58:11.7] KL: I love that. That is very cool.
[0:58:12.9] DD: We've always been using this phrase, at the end of the experience that you’re
reminded of what a gift and privilege it is to be alive and I think that that's really powerful on lots
of different levels and people need that you know? We need to be reminded that it's a gift and
privilege otherwise it's really easy to just be grumpy because there is a lot of junk in the world
and it is hard to deal with it all but it is a precious thing that you can hold when you can
remember that it's a gift and a privilege and if they can walk away with that then we feel like
we've done something meaningful in the world.
[0:59:10.0] KL: Scienceand art have always been a source of wonder and awe, especially when it comes to space. And when people do contemplate the universe, they want to protect it because they see they are part of it. Its vastness is nearly incomprehensible, however, and that poses a major challenge. And so large-scale pop-up exhibits all over the planet may help to accomplish this by delivering the awesomeness of the cosmos and thus redefining community as a cosmic one. We just need certain practices in place to crystallize such a community. I believe that mainstays of deep nature connection such as Questioning, Story of the Day, and the Big Story hold the key, since deep nature connection is, at its heart, about community. It's time to talk to a deep nature connection expert about how these principles actually work and their impact on life as we know it. And that's what we'll do next week, on Awe in the Raw.
[1:00:38.1] KL: I hope you got something from the show. For transcripts, click on the link in the show notes. That will take you to aweintheraw.com. There you can start a conversation or learn more about show guests, my books and up-coming events. And don’t forget, you can share the love by subscribing to the show or leaving a review. Have an awesome week!