Live an Aesthetic Life

Aesthetics

“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.

 

My garage:

  • 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.

 

Our home:

  • 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.

 

Work Office/Cube/Desk:

  • To the extent possible, enhance your workspace with items that are beautiful and inspire you.

 

Social Activities:

  • 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.

 

In summary

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.

Carpe diem!

🙂

 

“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

 

 

 

Sources:

 

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.

 

 

 

Romanticism

 

What is Romanticism?

Ask anyone on the street what “Romanticism” is and you’re likely to get replies that include:  beautiful flowers, surprise gifts, elegant date nights, heartfelt love letters, tender gestures, etc. – – essentially, anything that generates romance between two people in a relationship.

While that concept is nice (and important) it isn’t the same definition of “Romanticism” as my focus in this article.

Specifically, I speak of Romanticism as a state of mind; an attitude or philosophy toward life, the world and the universe that ignites and maintains a passion for living. It is key to living an enriched life and regularly experiencing wonder and joy.

First, let me differentiate between the specifics of this mindset and the historical period commonly referred to as “Romanticism” (with a capital R). There are similarities.

 

The Romanticism Movement

As a response to the age known as The Enlightenment, artists and intellectuals from all over Europe responded (rebelled) against the rigid reason, order, rationalism and conventions of the period. The rebellion took the form of poets, authors, composers, artists, architects and philosophers embracing an approach to their craft that exalted various characteristics including:

  • Emotions, spontaneity, feelings & intuition
  • Imagination, originality and creativity
  • Nature and the Sublime
  • Beauty
  • Freedom/Liberty
  • Individualism and self-becoming
  • Glorification & Idealization of the Past
  • Heroism & hero-worship
  • Mysticism and the mysterious

This Romanticism “movement” occurred roughly between 1770 – 1870. It crossed over individuals of all political leanings (liberals, conservatives, radicals), as well as being embraced by theists and atheists alike.

Many (most) of it’s attributes apply as well to my current definition of “Romanticism” below . . . .

 

Romanticism as a State of Mind

So . . . This Romanticism period ended about 1870. Does that mean it can’t be experienced or made a focus of life in the modern world? Did it cease to exist across the Earth? Is it now taboo? Is it a fluke that anyone in this modern day should still experience and relish some or all of these attributes?

Throughout this web site whenever I mention “Romanticism,” I’m referring to a certain mindset or attitude that can (and does) embrace many of the same characteristics of the Romantic period practitioners. However, this frame of mind doesn’t require us to be world renown artists, writers or philosophers. It’s simply a personality trait that allows one to embrace and live life with joy, passion and gratitude – an enriched life. It’s a philosophy of life that can be adopted by anyone if they so choose. It comes from within you.

This mindset of romanticism allows us to see the beauty and wonder of the world everywhere; to be grateful and appreciate nuances and details so easily overlooked by the typical urban dweller.

The foci I see most vividly contributing to this modern romanticism include:

Adventure – Experience something (anything) beyond the day-to-day mundane. Get out of your couch-potato comfort zone. Savor the uniqueness of a different experience. Appreciate out-of-the-norm surroundings.

Beauty & Aesthetics – Appreciate and be grateful for elegant beauty wherever you find it (music, art, architecture, landscape gardens, decor, nature, human physiology, human behavior, etc.). Surround yourself at home with aesthetic elements that resonate and inspire you.

Freedom/Liberty – Free yourself from the social, cultural, religious and intellectual restraints imposed on you throughout the formal education and social indoctrination you experienced since birth.

Heroism & Idealism – Find real heroes and attempt to emulate their best qualities. Envision in your mind and heart an idealized reality/existence. What qualities of those heroes inspire you? Can you adopt any of their attributes?

Individualism & Self-expression – Be the best and unique self you can (or wish) to be. Continue to improve and self-learn. What would an idealized self and its associated life look like to you? Let that vision inspire you.

Discovery – Expand your horizons to experience and learn beyond the programming you received in school and your upbringing. There’s a universe of exciting knowledge out there for you to discover; be a Knowledge Adventurer.

Nature – Appreciate the beauty and mysteries of nature, whether grand or simple. Visit and envelope yourself in the world’s gorgeous nature-scapes: forests, mountains, gorges, waterfalls, streams, rivers, storms, snowfalls, plains, bays, glaciers, volcanoes, caves, cliffs, arches, desserts, sea-shores. Yet appreciate the simple wonders of nature too, such as a bee gathering nectar from a flower, or a bird nesting and feeding its young.

Building and creating – Create something . . . anything. Make it an expression of yourself. If you do have an interest in some craft or skill but don’t know how, then learn. There’s much to be gained from how-to websites and videos across the internet. Years ago (a mere two decades) you were stuck with trying to locate a book at a store to learn something new. Now the world’s knowledge and skills are shared on the web. Take advantage of that amazing gift.

History – Experience the magic and mysteriousness of all that came before:  relics, ruins, art, architecture; literature – all from decades, centuries and millennia past. Wonder about the people who produced it. What were they like? How did they accomplish it? Who were they? Could they have possessed knowledge and abilities beyond what we know? Ponder on the passage of time and what you may leave for the generations brought forth in the future.

Slow Down and Notice – Develop a heightened awareness of the world around you so you can experience all of the above. Wonder. Ask questions. Challenge mundaneness. Consider reality beyond existing paradigms. Appreciate what you may heretofore ignored.

Feel The Emotion – Get in touch with your emotions while experiencing all of the above. Allow yourself to feel and experience with your heart – a Romantic:  wondering, questioning, discovering, appreciating. Allow the feelings to fill your soul and mind.

 

Romanticism vs Realism

What about realism, empiricism, science, objectivism, rationalism, and their importance to providing an accurate picture of life? Aren’t they important to living a life of reality and practicality?

Sure. But . . . are the two mutually exclusive?

Romanticism:
feeling, emotion, intuition, imagination, wonder, amazement, gratitude, beauty, appreciation, heroism, idealization, history, creating, subjectivism

Realism:
truth, knowledge, understanding, reason, logic, rationalism, empiricism, objectivism

Certainly not.

We are led to believe that you must be one or the other. And usually it’s indicated that we are more tied to Romanticism in our youth, then more likely to move toward Realism as we age and mature. While this might be the general tendency in life, I have to disagree that they are mutually exclusive.

In fact, I believe that the most well-rounded and accomplished in the world possess qualities of both realms.  I would call it “Romantic Intellectualism.”

 

Let Romanticism Enrich Your Life (Romantic Living)

Treasure, savor, appreciate, relish, admire the entire breadth of these gifts of life. Experience gratitude – even the simplest of things. Feel alive – the energy and emotions of gratitude, satisfaction, delight, wonder, awe, passion, bliss, joy, ecstasy, excitement, enchantment.

Desire to rise and live beyond the mundane standards of the herd. Pursue and embrace the elegant over the mundane, the beauty over the ugly. Think of it as a Romanticist way of living – being a “Romantic” at heart.

Have a passion for life. Don’t let yourself plod aimlessly and without inspiration or passion. Seize life. Follow your passions. Make your life wonderful, and share its magic and wonder with those around you – family and friends. Make sure you live such that on your deathbed you have a sense of having truly lived.

Romanticism is wonder. And, no matter how much of a realist you are, there’s always room for Romanticism in your life.

🙂

 

 

 

Some decent sources:

 

As with any sourcing on the internet, links can go ‘dead’ after a time. If you find the above-mentioned links no longer working, try the WayBack Machine:  http://archive.org/web/web.php    It’s sometimes a good way to pull up and view websites that are no longer active.