February 8, 2022

Allokataplixis: An ‘Other Wonder’

Have you ever wondered why we have a heightened sense of delight for ordinary things when we visit new places?

Everything is novel and fascinating when away from home, from the street lamps to the sweet selections in corner stores. You may not consciously be aware of it,  but it’s something we all feel and an experience worth talking about.

And it turns out there’s a name for it: “Allokataplixis”

Here’s a quick excerpt from ‘The Art of Noticing’ by Rob Walker to explain its origin:

A heightened observational mindset takes over when we’re tourists. In a new place, we pay attention to everything, it seems. (Ecologist Liam Heneghan has given this heightened and delighted attention to the ordinary’, which manifests in someone new to a place, a name: allokataplixis, combining the Greek allo, meaning ‘other’, and katapliktiko, meaning ‘wonder’)

But we spend most of our time in familiar places that have lost their inherent novelty. We take these surroundings for granted and we stop paying close attention. A recurring commute becomes profoundly numbing. Psychologists who study perception call this phenomenon inattentonal blindness.

This idea of ‘inattentional blindness’ is incredibly profound.

So often, we’re blind to what’s in front of us, simply because of our lack of attention towards it.

How often do we appreciate the everyday staples of our diet?

How often are we present in our conversations, instead of being lured away by the stressors of everyday life?

When we travel to new places, it's our mindset and outlook that makes the place so fascinating, the place isn’t any different to that which its residents experience.

Therefore, it follows that if we’re able to exercise a change in our outlook on the mundane, everyday details of our lives, we may just see our worlds in a whole new light. A gift if you will, to those who notice.

I think in a broader sense, much of my career path has led me to chase this feeling, an infinite game to replicate this experience of wonder and novelty.

For so long I felt like it would require frequent travel to escape my everyday life, but what I now realise is that allokataplixis or an ‘other wonder’, can be experienced right here from home towards our everyday lives, if we simply choose to pay attention.

Every week, I write about philosophy, self-fulfilment and creativity.
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