These images below are not in Eureka Springs. Arkansas! These are images (somewhere in the world) of an office, a school, a cityscape, a gym, a nursing home, a hospital, a homeless shelter and housing projects.
These images below are in Eureka Springs, Arkansas. These are images of the flat-iron building, the rainbow stairs, Humpty Dumpty seated on the wall along Spring Street, an exuberant local parade participant, local singer Opal Agafia, biker tourists, The Passion Play, a gingerbread cottage and a mosaic art statue near Basin Park.
"Eureka!! I have found it!
I have possibly discovered the magic, the aesthetic awesomesauce that makes Eureka Springs so attractive, so inviting, so pleasant, so joyous and so wonderful to visit and reside.
What is that intangible mysterious feeling that locals and visitors feel when something in them is ignited upon first visiting and experiencing Eureka Springs, Arkansas.
In her studies, Ingrid Fetel Lee, a designer and writer, correlates how tangible things in our lives make us feel intangible joy. How is this so? How can this be?
Well, one look at the drab images of offices, schools, gyms, hospitals and cities one can easily understand that those very (tangible) things in our lives evoke little to no joy.
So what does?
Confetti, flowers, bubbles, swimming pools, rainbows, tree houses, hot air balloons, fireworks, polka dots, parade floats, beads, sunflowers and googly eyes. These things in life seem to create such universal joy for all of us. "These things seem to cut across lines of age, gender and ethnicity." Ingrid has learned that "these things aren't just joyful for a few people, they are joyful for nearly everyone. They're universally joyful."
When Ingrid put all these joyful discoveries together and studies them, something clicked for her, she noticed common themes and patterns in the things that bring us all joy: pops of color, round things, symmetrical shapes, a feeling of abundance and multiplicity, lightness and elevation, Although joy is elusive, intangible, mysterious and more, we can access it through certain tangible physical attributes. Aesthetics. Aesthetics of joy, as she calls them.
(Aesthethics comes from the Greek word, aisthanomai. I feel. I sense. I perceive.)
This is it! This is totally it!
Eureka Springs is universally joyful.
Eureka Springs has a magnificent abundance of "aesthetics of joy" all around.
In this captivating Ted talk*, Ingrid reveals the surprisingly tangible roots of joy and shows how we all can find and create more of it in the world around us. After years of growth and development, the beautiful people of Eureka, past and present, have done exactly that with this exceptional place.
They have taken ordinary things, natural things, and they create joy by turning things and experiences into something that ... well ... to put it simply ... sparks joy.
I live in Eureka Springs and ever since the first day I visited in August 2017, I have been in love with Eureka. It's been a very hard-to-explain topic for me but after listening to Ingrid's Ted talk, and really taking this all in, it made me realize, I'm in love with Eureka because Eureka consistently sparks joy.
Ingrid refers to joy as a "mysterious quixotic emotion" and explains that in her research, she discovered that this emotion is engaged by the physical world around us. It's powerful because it's power can help us all live happier lives.
Ingrid explains that "color, in a very primal way, is a sign of life; sign of energy. The same is true for abundance. In addition, she discovered that round objects and curves set us at ease."
People choose Eureka Springs, to reside and to visit, so that they may live happier lives. In Eureka Springs, you can be yourself. This diverse, radically inclusive, corner of Northwest Arkansas enjoys sharing and experiencing a lot of varied joyous moments in a natural environment that has been magnificently cultivated with aesthetics of joy everywhere you go.
Ingrid says, that when psychologists use the word joy, they refer to it as an "intense momentary experience of positive emotion. One that makes us smile, and laugh and feel like we want to jump up and down." "Joy is different than happiness," she says. "Happiness is measured by how good we feel over time whereas joy comes from an intense momentary experience. Feeling good in the moment. RIGHT NOW!"
Eurekans are all about living in the moment, as shown here. Eureka Springs Crochet Artist Gina Rose Gallina is the Yarnbomber! Gina's work truly sparks joy.
Ingrid's Ted talk gets very compelling when she shifts into how we all find ourselves chasing after the pursuit of happiness, but in the process we actually inadvertently overlook joy. We find ourselves in drab offices, schools, gyms, hospitals and cities and often times, they don't exhibit aesthetics of joy at all.
As children, we are joyous beings, but as we get older, being colorful or exuberant opens us up to judgement. "Adults who exhibit genuine joy are often dismissed as childish or too feminine, unserious, or self-indulgent." Neutral aesthetics in offices, hospitals, etc. are an attempt at creating judgement-free environments but without aesthetics of joy, these environments suck the life out of us.
Don't hold yourself back from joy.
More often than not, we are told that these moment of joy are just passing pleasures, and one-offs, when in fact, they are truly important. They help to cultivate community, and "they remind us of a shared humanity in our common experience in the physical world."
When Ingrid took all these 'aesthetics of joy' discoveries and put them all together, she had this "indescribably hopeful feeling."
"The sharply divided, politically polarized world we live in sometimes has the effect of making our differences feel so vast as to be insurmountable. And yet underneath it all, there's a part of each of us that finds joy in the same things."
Ingrid believes, just as Eureka Springs has believed for years and years, that these aesthetics of joy can be used to help us experience joy and find more joy in life around us. Eureka has been created over time using these aesthetics of joy.
Studies also show that people working in more colorful offices are more alert, confident and friendlier than those in drab spaces. This is also part of the reason why our locals are so friendly. The locals experience Eureka Springs, every day. They share their joy.
Through thoughtful, artful, conscious action, Eureka Springs is designed to be a joyous place on Earth. Our community is fueled by joy. This, my friends, is the magic of Eureka. Eureka is designed, fostered and cultivated to consistently evoke joy.
We embrace moments of joy and we seek out opportunities for to them happen for ourselves and for others.
"Each moment of joy is small but over time they add up to more than the sum of their parts." When we take a moment to see Eureka Springs through this lens, it all becomes very clear. Eureka Springs, Arkansas is joyful because it's aesthetically designed to universally be so; both naturally and through our unique community development.
"Instead of chasing after happiness, what we should be doing is embracing joy and finding ways to put ourselves in the path of it more often. Deep within us, we all have this impulse to seek out joy in our surroundings and we have it for a reason. Joy isn't some superfluous extra, it's directly connected to our fundamental instinct for survival. On the most basic level, the drive toward joy, is the drive toward life." -Ingrid Fetell Lee
So, when are you driving to Eureka Springs?
"Your work gives me a feeling of joy," this essentially was what started it all for designer and writer Ingrid Fetell Lee. When a professor in college said this to her, about work she designed and displayed on a table for semester review, it sparked something in her that changed the trajectory of her life. Ingrid now studies joy and has written the book, Joyful: The Surprising Power of Ordinary Things To Create Extraordinary Happiness.