You Can Learn a Lot from Watching "The Most Beautiful Sunset in the World"
Welcome to the golden hour
Simple + Straightforward is a weekly letter filled with essays, tips, and ideas to live life more simply and intentionally. This is a public post so feel free to share with friends and family you think would enjoy a dose of simplicity every Friday.
I’ve always found the human fascination for sunsets, well, fascinating.
I myself am no exception. I’ll happily stare at that pink, yellow, and orange sky as a big shiny orb sinks below the horizon, as it has done every single day since the dawn of time. It’s the most normal thing on earth and yet it will make everyone gawp like they’ve just seen real magic, taking out their phones and selfie-ing all over the joint.
Never was the sunset obsession more obvious than in the city of Zadar on Croatia’s coast. Back in the 60s, Alfred Hitchcock called it the most beautiful sunset in the world, and to be honest, he’s probably not wrong.
I was there a few days back as a speaker at Zadar Digital Nomad week so at 8 pm one night I dutifully walked down to Zadar’s promenade to watch the show.
Usually, I watch things like this with my husband but he was off galivanting around Nikola Tesla’s home so I was on my own for this one. As such, I observed, thought, and pondered much more than I normally would as I watched a beautiful thing happen.
Here’s what came to mind
We should immerse ourselves in the moment more
As it’s June and Croatia, I was surrounded by about a gazillion tourists. I observed the cameras and selfie sticks. Even little tripods were set up to capture people watching the best sunset in the world.
After 30 minutes of watching people set up their cameras, it was really obvious that very few people were actually interested in watching the sunset at all. They would have their backs to it, someone would snap a shot (or 30) of them “for the ‘gram,” then they’d head off, barely looking at the sky at all.
One woman I watched spent the best part of the sunset positioning her 10-year-old son in such a way that she could capture the sunset in his sunglasses, thus making her - and her son - miss the show entirely.
I’ve been very mindful of my camera usage in recent years - I take hardly any photos at all these days because I want to be fully immersed in whatever moment I’m in.
I want to feel it in my damn bones. Not an easy feat when you’re attempting the perfect selfie.
Sunset takeaway: Be present. Snap a photo or two then put your phone away. You’ll quickly forget those 100 photos but you’ll never forget how you felt.
Why not applaud nature (literally)?
I’ve watched the Zadar sunset a few times in my life and something I’ve noticed is that the whole promenade will applaud once the sun has gone down like they’ve just seen the best show of their life.
The first time you hear it, it’s kind of jarring. Why applaud something like that?
The more I’ve thought about it, the more I like the applause.
Too many times in life, applause only comes with achievement. Someone made a good speech, or they graduate or they’ve just performed really well in a play.
But why shouldn’t we show recognition for the magic of natural beauty? For a moment that made us all gooey inside?
Next time, I think I might join in that applause.
Why do we love sunsets so much?
It was a question that rolled around my head many times as I sat there and gawped at the sky so I indulged in a little research.
We have evolved to appreciate beauty in the natural world because it’s a way of measuring “rightness” in the world.
Sunsets scientifically make us happier and improve our wellbeing.
The way natural beauty makes us feel increases our sense of generosity.
The colors of a sunset - yellow, orange, and red - have a calming effect on humans, making us more relaxed and rested.
A sunset punctuates the end of a day. Had a bad one? No sweat, it’s over now. A good one? You can reflect on those good vibes as the sun goes down.
A final - slightly weird - thought on boats
As I sat there, two boats came across the harbor. The first was a luxury yacht with a handful of people watching the sunset. As they went between me and the sun, the yacht was thrown into shadow and it looked absolutely picture perfect.
The second boat glided past a few minutes later. It was a Jadrolinja ferry which is Croatia’s passenger boat company - a cheap way to get across to the islands that dot the coastline. They’re old, noisy, and very functional boats, always packed to the rafters and this one was no exception.
As the ugly Jadrolinja ferry chugged past and was also thrown into shadow, I snapped a photo of it. It was nowhere near as beautiful a photo as what the yacht would have made, but that’s not why I took it.
I took it because there were hundreds of people on that working ferry. That’s hundreds of different lives, thousands of different wants and desires. They’re a collection of humans just going about their day, and for me, that’s one of the most beautiful things of all in this life.
Something to read this weekend
3 articles from my collection (paywall-free)
3 of the best pieces of content I’ve consumed this week
The Slow Home Podcast - Slow productivity with Dr. Kate Litterer
Becoming Minimalist - How you can take a digital detox this summer
Spreading Hope in a World of Doom Bait - Sean Kernan