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Creativity, nature, & getting off the grid

Cannonbeach_slide I talk a lot about the importance of getting away from the computer, getting off the grid and finding time alone. This is crucial to keeping the creative spirit alive. Time alone is necessary, and time alone with nature is even better. It's important for fueling and nurturing the creative spirit to take the time to be completely present and appreciate nature's unaffected beauty and simplicity. The famous Zen scholar Daisetz Suzuki (1870-1966) often discussed the importance of being connected with nature and how the yearning for that connection was something deep in all of us (even if all too often neglected in modern life). An entire chapter is devoted to discussing nature and Zen and the special affection Japanese have for nature in his book Zen and Japanese Culture:

"However 'civilized,' however much brought up in an artificially contrived environment, we all seem to have an innate longing for primitive simplicity, close to the natural state of living."

                                                          — Daisetz Suzuki

While in one of my favorite spots in the world yesterday, I took out my tiny handheld Nikon camera and recorded this one-minute spot belowto give you a feel for the location (Ecola Park near Cannon Beach, Oregon). 


Note:The digital postcard was made in Keynote (three slides). The video was shot with a tiny Nikon Coolpix. Video is imported as a Quicktime movie. The images of masking tape are set to about 70% opacity in Photoshop (could have been done directly in Keynote as well) and sit atop the video. Recorded with "Record Slideshow" feature (File menu) and exported as a Quicktime movie. Simple. The final slide says "From Oregon with Love" (Oregon Kara Ai) which was the title of a famous TV show in Japan in the '80s. 



Beautiful man. The juxtaposition of the tall dark cliffs and flat ocean makes for very powerful imagery. Definitely good advice for all of us. Thanks also for the methodology at the end.

Olivier Gratton-Gagné

I enjoyed PZ blog for a little more than 6 months now, and most of the time I feel really inspired by it.

This post seems in direct connection with the book I'm reading right now: Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig. The complex connections betwen nature, science, technology, beauty and inspiration are really well described. I guess the book can be an inspiration for presenters.

The authors often brings the point of connection with the nature, and I think it is really important to go enjoy some good nature-moment without any aim of 'fueling-up' your creativity. Just go live it, do it, be there, in the present tense. In my point of view, this is the true zen. And yes, most of the time, we will come back filled with a new energy, fresh ideas and inspiration. But going to a beach, mountain, desert or forest with precises objectives is spoiling the beauty of the moment.

By the way, I don't doubt that Garr has had a truly zen experience in Oregon. And I can't wait to get back from my trip to read the PZ book. Thanks again for bringin on this great blog!


Caroline Schneider

Garr, it's very sweet of you to share your precious alone-time with us. Thank you and: enjoy.

Kare Anderson

Growing up, we'd often visit Ecola Park.

Tom McCall must be smiling down on you.

Thank you for that updated "postcard from the past, many carefree times.

You probably even pronounce "Oregon" properly

another fan
kia ora



I totally agree with you. As a Finnish guy living in Tokyo, the one thing I miss most (in everyday life) is the nature.

But alone time is so important for my thinking process that I always find time and space for it. For me the best has always been commuting to work with my bicycle. Me best ideas always get better during those half an hour moments of solitude. Fresh air is flowing trough my brain and it brings fresh ideas out. And as you quoted earlier, John Medina's first Brain Rule is "Exercise boost brain power."

But how I miss my autumn hikes at Finnish Lappland. Japanese mountains are great, but nothing compared to a week in the wilderness.

Florian Camerer

Hi Garr,
I am a sound engineer in Austria - and your book has proven very valuable for me! I do quite a lot of presentations about surround sound and related matters and have suffered so many "death-by-PP" instances ...
One remark to your short clip: it would be much more compelling if the audio wouldn't be so contaminated with the wind distorting the mic diaphragm, with all those low frequency bumps - and with stereo!
I know about the trouble to get audio in those little cameras right - but there are even small windshields for these types ...
You are a professional, but this gives it such an amateur bias.

Otherwise: thanks for the great ideas and the constant inspiration through your blog!

Florian, Vienna, Austria

Todd F.

We were going to go to Tokyo this year but the high airfare costs nixed that idea. It turned out to be a blessing because we turned our vacation into a road trip, from Northern California down through Arizona, New Mexico, and back through Colorado, Utah and the back side of the Sierras. We'll be able to see a lot of things we've never seen before: a Navajo guided jeep tour through Canyon de Chelly, a hike in the New Mexico Rockies with pack llamas, Zion and Bryce Canyon National Parks, and the remains of the Manzanar Internment Camp.

It's still weeks away but I can feel the excitement building in me. Living in this "always-on" world does become tiresome, and the ability to get out to places where nothing comes between you, the earth and the endless sky can be a real boost of energy.

Thanks for the great relevant post!

Kelli Matthews

Welcome home, Garr. Enjoy your time on the coast.


Timothy Zhu

This post is so true. When I was in my undergrad Architecture program, I would frequently run across design problems that I couldn't solve. Rather than remain in studio and on my computer trying to adjust the 3D model until I fixed the problem, I would just take a walk outside and clear my mental block. When I came back and revisited the problem again, it was usually a quick fix when I thought about the problem without the aggrevation of initially encountering the problem.



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