Beauty is a Verb

The world is filled with an incomprehensible number of beautiful people, processes, and things. I don’t mean beauty in the magazine cover kind of way but in a broader sense appreciating how something appears, behaves, or sounds. I’m talking about pristine and symmetrical beauty, ugly beauty, nonsensical beauty, beyond-words beauty, and everything in between. How can we bring more beauty in our lives and why should we?

I took this photo right in front of a McDonald’s

The only qualifier for something to be “beautiful” is whether or not you find it to be beautiful. There is no scale to measure beauty or universal code that determines it. To you, your child’s first words may be more beautiful than Socrates’s most profound and there’s no one who can justly say that that’s wrong. To that end, you are in total control of how beautiful your world is. In other words, things are not beautiful until you notice that they are. People who take more time to appreciate their surroundings objectively live in a more beautiful world than those who don’t. Beauty is not an attribute an object inherently possesses but is actually the act of appreciation. The solution to adding more beautiful and meaningful experience into your life is not necessarily to visit more art museums or travel the world (though that is certainly one route) but to make seeking beauty in people and the world a part of your character.

A big part of the reason that travel and tourism have become so dominant is because we as humans often fail to see the beauty in the people and things we encounter in our day-to-day lives. When life gets to be too much, work is draining, and family matters are frustrating, we take a trip. While I love traveling, learning about new cultures, and experiencing new environments, I truly believe that if we seek the beauty in our friends, community, and home we will begin treating travel as less of an escape and more of an enriching experience. At this point, you may be thinking something like, “Well sure this is fine, but I’m not about stare at things in my everyday life until I find them to be beautiful.” Truly, you don’t have to stare at things until you can figure out some rhyme or reason to make it beautiful. I’ve ultimately found that just by being more aware and present, beauty started slapping me across the face in the most unexpected places. Andy Warhol showed the world how artful a Campbell’s soup can can be and built much of his career on the everyday. Again though, I’d like to reiterate how personal of an experience beauty is; if you don’t look at Campbell’s soup the same way Andy Warhol did, join the club.

Totally lucky street shot., had about 5 seconds while this beauty was stopped at a red light.

Technology has made it easier than ever for us to organize our ideas, coordinate schedules, and juggle projects. However, I can’t help but feel like the human mind wasn’t made to process all the information that technology now enables us to. With electronic calendars constantly reminding us of every commitment and task we have for months to years in the future, our phones constantly pushing new information at us, and countless social media influencers and brands vying for our attention, it can become so difficult to focus on what is happening right in front of our faces. Look out the window and you may see that incredible church, the delivery driver helping someone carry their package, a father walking his child to school, or a prideful small business owner cleaning up his shop. When I took 2 months off of social media earlier this year, I realized that the hardest part was not missing out on social events or not seeing my friend’s posts but literally standing in an elevator, riding the subway, or eating a meal alone without having a mindless activity to occupy my brain and fingers. I was forced to recognize boredom, awkward silences, and even momentary loneliness with no ability to avoid it. As time went on, this boredom made way for awareness that allowed me time to breathe and appreciate the present moment.

I pass by this hilarious sign on my way home from school everyday : ·)

I realize this is nothing new; this is just my personal perspective on an age old lesson. I’m sharing it because the effects it has had on my own life have been enormous. Ever since I can remember, I have always been petrified by death. All the uncertainties about it have always made me sick to my stomach. This “beauty as a verb” philosophy has been my one solace. Instead of pouring over how short life is, marveling at the fact that I have eyes to see faces and mountains, a nose to smell spring and freshly baked bread, ears to fill with laughs and Mozart symphonies, and my very own voice to share and document how I experience these things fills me with wonder and appreciation for the years I get to spend in this world. As a musician and artist, I now consider it my life’s work to make this world a more beautiful place. For me, this has meant turning to veganism and environmental aid groups, supporting live music and local artists, creating art for beauty rather than commercial attention, and writing blogs like this one to help people become more aware in their own lives. Your own journey can include things like limiting your digital life, journaling 1 thing you found beautiful each day, or sharing with your friends how beautiful you think they are. The world is incredible and worth living for, loving, and contributing to. I will leave you with a quote from an artist who dedicated his whole life to beauty, both creating and appreciating it:

“I should be happy to give 10 years of my life if I could go on sitting here in front of this picture [Rembrandt’s The Jewish Bride] for a fortnight, with only a crust of dry bread for food.”

Vincent Van Gogh

PS: Author and blogger, Colin Wright, came to a very similar realization regarding technology and awareness. I think he describes this experience so well; here’s a quote from his TED talk, “Extremes are Easy”:

“…while I was living there (New Zealand), I climbed up a mountain. And I got up to the top and I sat down on a rock, and I looked out at the horizon and there was kinda these roiling clouds and fog and little road cone like treetops poking out from the clouds, other mountains off in the distance. I could smell the salt in the wind; I could taste the salt in the wind. And feel it stinging against my face and I could feel it whistling through the shrubs and I remember so many specifics about that moment, about that day but about that moment in particular. For the first time in my life, I was alone… truly truly alone, in the sense that I was alone on this mountaintop but I was also coming to the end of a 6 month experiment where I got rid of my phone and the mobile internet completely.

I am not a Luddite; I am not anti-technology. I love technology. I think its remarkable that a device that fits in my pocket, I can take it out and communicate with anyone in the world at a moment’s notice, instantaneously, across national borders, economic borders. I can reach into the cloud and access the archive of all human knowledge and add to it. It’s amazing; we’re living in the future. That is so cool to me, but I love it so much that I spend a lot of my time there. I’m engaged in this wider network to the exclusion sometimes of what’s going on right here. This was an extreme and I knew I was missing out on something… Running up against this far side of the spectrum, I knew there was something over there but I had no idea what it was. I’d never experienced that in my adult life, that disconnect from that larger human race. And so I wanted to see what it was like and it came to a head on that mountaintop. I realized that there were things I was missing out on and that equilibrium somewhere in between would have to be struck or I’d be missing out half of human experience… I was looking out at that horizon and I wasn’t thinking about what filter to apply to it. I wasn’t tasting the wind and thinking about how to describe it in 140 characters or less. I was taking it in through the lenses of my eyes and it was remarkable and something valuable to me. Even though I ended up getting a phone later, I used it far more intentionally as a result.”

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