“Officially” speaking, Aesthetics is the branch of philosophy dealing with the nature of beauty and artistic taste. But you don’t have to be a philosopher to bask in the benefits of living an aesthetic life.
Simply having a sensitivity and appreciation for beauty is a good start. Slow down; pause; observe. Note and appreciate those things that give you pleasure and inner satisfaction when you experience them with your senses (sight, sound, smell, touch, taste). What things appeal and resonate with you? What ignites a passion and inspires you? What calms and pauses you for contemplative reflection?
It could be numerous things:
- Arts (visual) – paintings, prints, drawings, sculptures, ceramics, photography, architecture, metalwork, mixed media, textiles
- Arts (performing) – music, drama, dance, film
- Literature – novels and poetry that engage your sense of beauty, inspire and transport you
- Design – interior, auto, architecture, fashion, engineering
- Nature – trees, shrubs, flowers, streams, waterfalls, mountains, insects, animals, landscape gardens
- Cuisine – savoring excellent food and drink in a pleasing ambience
- Craftsmanship – appreciating well-executed creations of others
- Science – beautiful discoveries that provide incredible aha moments
What gives you pleasure and inner joy? Jot down some notes about any special aesthetic things that seem to “do it” for you. Get a clear idea on what aesthetic elements really appeal to you and give you an innate satisfaction.
How to Adopt a Living Aesthetic
So, after considering the beautiful and appealing things that give you pleasure and inner satisfaction, what can you do about it? So what?
How about you make an effort to surround yourself with those resonating aesthetics?
Why? Because regularly experiencing the appreciation and pleasure from these beautiful things provides long term benefits for your life. They can be a powerful influence for growth, fulfillment, happiness, inspiration, accomplishments, etc. Your overall attitude about life is improved, versus someone that doesn’t identify with aesthetics in any way.
I found an excellent article that zeroes in on the importance of living an aesthetic life:
Benefits of Living the Aesthetic Life by Victoria Raynor
She really understands the importance of aesthetics! Her vision mirrors my own regarding its influence on our lives. Her article, while not lengthy, packs a powerful message.
Benefits of beauty and aesthetics she mentions include: it energizes body and spirit, invigorates us, gives instant pleasure; instills interest in our lives, gets us in touch with ourselves, enables the beautiful inside us, reduces stress, ignites creativity, improves mental health, gives us focus, provides calming relaxation and happiness.
I don’t see much of a downside . . . do you?
And, as she points out . . . we don’t need to be an authority on art, beauty and aesthetics to identify something as pleasing to us. We’re our own judge. It’s our interpretation. We decide what’s beautiful for us; what resonates with our spirit.
So…. be an Aesthete by surrounding yourself with beauty and reap its benefits.
Some Ideas . . .
Immerse yourself in soul-satiating aesthetics – outfit your living and working space using elements that resonate with the pleasure points in your soul (furnishings, décor, music, lighting, artistic & intellectual artifacts, collections & curios).
I have what seems like innumerable interests and passions. Some of these I use to enhance my living aesthetics.
Some examples from my personal life:
My home office & library:
- I love Art Deco architecture, art and design so when I created my office I decorated it in that theme.
- I also find beauty in those things that can ignite a sense of adventure and discovery – such as intriguing scientific and navigation instruments, historic artifacts, mysterious megalithic ancient archaeological sites, mythic lands, esoteric woodcuts and symbols. So various objects in my office library reflect these inspiring themes.
- Since I was a teen, I have an interest in building, restoring and mildly customizing cars of the 50s & 60s. Along with that hobby, I find appeal in 50s-era gas stations and streamline modern design. So, when tackling the project of refinishing my garage, I chose to do it in a retro-50s style. Streamlined curved corners to the cabinets I built, which also have a retro Formica countertop and polished aluminum counter edging (like the old dining sets of the 50s and 60s). Matching pub table and retro stools. I decorated the garage with a 1955 Tokheim gas pump, a 1953 Westinghouse wall-mount telephone (restored and working), Texaco neon clock, as well as a lot of appealing retro tin signs on the walls. Overall, it’s a 1950s Texaco gas station and workshop theme.
- My wife and I love to create a cozy, comfortable aesthetic for our home. Appealing furniture, colors and décor that evoke a wonderful and satisfying feeling for the time we’re there.
- We recently refinished our basement and wanted a theme of Louisville (both the city and its history, as well as the University of Louisville where we’re both alumni). Along with that we wanted a bit of a pub/tavern feel. We achieved that and did almost all the work ourselves.
Our home’s landscape gardens:
- My wife and I both are passionate about immersing ourselves in a large variety of gorgeous public gardens. We’ve visited dozens over the years and these beautiful oases have inspired us to create our own “Elysium” to immerse ourselves and kindle our spirits.
Travel to-and-from work:
- In a further effort to expose myself to as much beauty as often as possible, I make it a point to drive through Louisville’s Seneca and Cherokee parks both to and from work whenever I can. I avoid the interstate and busy secondary roads with lots of traffic lights and cars. At the same time I play beautiful music in the car, opening my windows, feel the breeze – all of it taking me away from the stress of work and traffic, focusing instead on the beauty that relaxes and reduces stress.
- To the extent possible, enhance your workspace with items that are beautiful and inspire you.
- Dine and drink at restaurants that have a pleasing ambiance. Choose something other than uninspiring and cold concrete floors, dull furnishings and drab décor. Find places that call to your soul/spirit – even if in a small way. Dining alfresco is a favorite of ours – selecting a location that has a satisfying patio with shade, plants, fountains and a decent opportunity for people watching. In Louisville, O’Shea’s in the Highlands is one of our favorites. Europe’s street cafés are wonderful in this aspect too. No wonder so many great writers, poets and artists found solace and inspiration at cafés and encouraging social atmospheres throughout Europe.
A Couple of Observations . . .
I find that living an aesthetic life drives Romanticism and vice versa. They build upon, compliment and feed each other. There’s much in the way of overlap between the two. Both celebrate beauty. Beauty is the common core.
Also, some people feel you are either an intellectual or an aesthete, but not both. I disagree. Ideas and discoveries can be beautiful too. And an appreciation of beauty can ignite the intellectual fires within us as well. We can celebrate both beauty and ideas – the best of both worlds.
Surround your life and living spaces with that which pleases your eye, delights you, mystifies you, engages you, impresses you, inspires you, satiates you, resonates with you, inflames your passion, engulfs you in warmth and beauty, gives you joy, triggers your creativity, evokes comfort, fires your intellect, sparks your curiosity, drives discovery, encourages adventure, instills satisfaction, reduces stress.
It doesn’t have to happen overnight, or all at once. Create it over weeks, months, years, decades.
Think of this living aesthetic as a canvas of personal fulfillment and fire for your spirit.
“It is art that makes life, makes interest, makes importance, for our consideration and application of these things, and I know of no substitute whatever for the force and beauty of its process.”
– Henry James
“It is through art, and only art, that we can realize our perfection.”
– Oscar Wilde