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.

 

 

 

Wonder: From Emotion to Spirituality by Robert C. Fuller

A little over a year ago I listened to a podcast on ArtOfManliness.com entitled The Power Of Wonder wherein Brett McKay interviewed the author of a book (Robert Fuller) on the topic of Wonder.  It was particularly interesting since this topic fascinates and inspires me and it’s difficult to find references of any kind on the subject. (Not to mention that it’s the titled-focus of this web site.)  So after listening to the podcast I ordered the book.

The formal book title is: Wonder: From Emotion to Spirituality.  The author’s professional vitae reflects his major focus on religion – which the book did indeed address. However, I’m extremely appreciative of the fact that he was able to treat this subject with a broader secular approach it so deserves.

“Wonder is what sets us apart from other life forms. No other species wonders about the meaning of existence or the complexity of the universe or themselves.”
– Herbert W. Boyer

 

What is Wonder?

At the time of the publication of the book (2006) the Oxford English Dictionary defined wonder as:

The emotion excited by the perception of something novel and unexpected.

 

The current Oxford English Dictionary definition is:

A feeling of amazement and admiration, caused by something beautiful, remarkable, or unfamiliar.

 

A working definition noted within the book is:

The feeling state that accompanies the total organism’s response to something novel and unexpected (especially those things that strike us as especially powerful, real, true and/or beautiful.)

 

Throughout the book the author mentions many attributes of wonder.  The main components of wonder include:

  • Surprise
  • Bewilderment
  • Astonishment
  • Amazement
  • Perplexity
  • Admiration

Mr. Fuller notes that in searching the indices of his personal library of psychology books published in the last 100 years, he could not find a single mention of “wonder.”  It’s a rare emotion that is difficult to reproduce in a laboratory environment, so it’s rather ignored.

Over and over in the book, and even the podcast, he continually alludes to wonder being driven by powerful experiences of Beauty, Vitality and Truth. He also mentions Beauty, Order and Vitality although I’m not exactly clear what he means by “order.”  Perhaps he means order and harmony in the universe and nature? I really like this reference to powerful experiences of Beauty, Vitality and Truth. It resonates with me.    🙂

What things typically produce wonder?  Nature, Beauty, Music, Art, Science, Discovery, People, Love, Life, Mathematics, Geometry, Religion and Metaphysical Mysteries.

I think another significant cause of wonder is also Knowledge Adventuring.  Researching, questioning and uncovering heretofore little-known facts that leap out at you; smacking you in the face with a realization of awe and wonder about the ramifications and truth of that knowledge. As the author states, powerful displays of Truth can be a cause of wonder.

 

Wonder vs. Awe vs. Curiosity vs. Interest

An interesting element of the book were many excerpts from various sources and the author’s own thoughts to differentiate between various emotions that are easily confused with, or closely related to, wonder.

Awe – Actually….almost every mention of awe in the book is always listed in conjunction with wonder….. i.e. “awe and wonder.”  As already admitted, wonder is rarely the subject of written psychology texts, but apparently awe is even less defined – at least when it comes to distinguishing it from wonder.  It was not clear in the book as to the difference.  When awe was mentioned the typical attributes were: the presence of God; a religious experience; dread; terror; intimidation; vastness of the universe and life; the unknown and maybe unknowable.  In one instance, a source of his states that “wonder generates awe.” Interesting. Perhaps it should be that awe generates wonder?

Curiosity – Mr. Fuller spends some time discussing curiosity and how this is a more active emotion than wonder (which is said to be passive).  Curiosity is summarized as an attempt to analyze, understand and even manipulate the events and objects of our environment. It involves inquiries into the causal workings of physical reality.

Wonder – As opposed to curiosity wonder is a more passive emotion.  It has more to do with cognitive reflection and contemplation about unexpected perceptions. Reflecting on how the various parts relate to a greater whole. It induces receptivity and openness and causes us to consider life and its meaning from broader perspectives. How do we relate to the world?  How do we relate to others? What is possible? Is there a purpose in the universe? Where does existence come from? Like interest, it drives long-term constructive and creative endeavors. It has intrinsic value to the individual. Wonder causes us to philosophize.

Interest – How is interest different than curiosity and wonder? The author and his referenced sources aren’t particularly clear about this.  On the one hand he says that, like wonder, heightened interest “animates and enlivens the mind” and lures us into “constructive and creative” engagement with our surroundings. It “focuses attention” and readies us for “engagement and interaction.” It’s closest to wonder in terms of its effect on motivation.  However, as much as he relates it to wonder, it sounds like it’s more active than wonder – akin to the active emotion of curiosity rather than passive wonder.

I think all these positive emotions are beneficial to us.  It’s quite difficult to split hairs about the subtle differences and nuances among the four.  And to the non-academician – – does such bifurcation really matter?

Awe, wonder, curiosity, interest . . . .  the important aspect to register in our lives is the tremendous effect these have to enrich us SO far beyond the mundane.  What exactly are the benefits and effects of wonder and its related emotions?

 

Benefits and Effects of Wonder on Your Life

Without a doubt these incredible emotions bring enriching positives to the lives of anyone who will entertain them. The book has continual and profuse references to the benefits of experiencing wonder in our life.  It . . .

  • enriches our existence
  • produces personal fulfillment
  • stimulates growth
  • excites our imagination
  • enhances our seeking
  • invigorates us
  • provides a fresh approach to life
  • frees us of environmental conditioning
  • enables our self-direction
  • imbues the world with an alluring quality
  • engages us in self-examination
  • produces a mindful awareness of the world
  • awakens our higher-order thought
  • initiates abstract thinking
  • animates and enlivens the mind and body
  • induces us to pause, admire, and open our hearts and minds
  • kindles a reverence for life

Amazing.  Yet, the vast majority of humanity has no concept of wonder or its benefits. They meander through life impressed by nothing.

“And thus although you can surely go through life without a developed sense of wonder, it is equally true that a life shaped by wonder is attuned to the widest possible world of personal fulfillment.”
– Robert Fuller

 

Religion vs Spirituality

While Mr. Fuller comes from an academic role focused on religion – as I mentioned – he does a good job of sharing wonder in relation to both its religious and secular aspect.

One area where I cannot agree with Mr. Fuller is his claim that religious rituals and doctrines evoke wonder in people. I can understand his claim (since I presume he has a lifetime of indoctrination via many years of formal religious experience) . . . . however, even before I was a heretic, I did not find doctrine and ritual fascinating or wonderful in any way.  Years of being a Catholic, or later, a born-again Christian did not help this claim.  Unless one is ready to abandon every filament of their rational being, rituals overtly come across as inane, meaningless and manipulative; the antithesis to wonder.

As a student in Catholic elementary school I thought First Communion, Confirmation and May Procession rituals all certainly interesting, but even then, they couldn’t hold a candle to to the magic of hiking along the creek in the woods with my father. Nature rules over doctrine. Period.

Even outside of formal religion, rituals and doctrine of fraternal organizations such as Freemasonry (I was a member for a few years) are equally inane and meaningless. I could not perceive benefits or wonder of any kind beyond the fact that I was wasting valuable hours of my life experiencing silly play-acting that was somehow supposed to be mysterious and special to its participants, but which lost its true esoteric meaning and importance long, long ago.

One area I do agree is his references to various people’s connection with spirituality as it relates to nature.  Somewhere in the book he mentions it as “religious naturalism.”  I think a better term would be “spiritual naturalism.”  From my perspective the only god I ever see (if there is one) is a deistic god of nature – – nature as god.

I’ve experienced numerous occasions where I was brought to disbelief, awe, wonder and tears of joy by the sheer majesty and mystery of nature…..NEVER by anything related to orthodox religion.

 

Can Man-made Objects Cause Wonder?

Another area where I find disagreement with the author is his claim that wonder is less likely to be caused by human-made artifacts.

For anyone with even a crude understanding and appreciation of engineering and construction capabilities, there’s a myriad of man-made structures that simply leaves a viewer with slack-jawed awe and wonder.  From monstrous bridges, buildings, palaces, cathedrals, ships, statues, and huge sculptures a viewer is left dumb-struck as to how such edifices and artistic expression could possibly have been erected using the technology of the day.

The most incredible examples of this mind-blowing awe and wonder in human achievement are the innumerable ancient structures around the world built with megalithic blocks of stone. Incredible behemoth stones were quarried, lifted, transported, lifted again, finished and fitted with space-age precision – supposedly with crude tools that could not have accomplished the task at hand. Unless you possess at least a basic understanding of engineering you wouldn’t give these structures a second thought. But if you do have the capacity to see the engineering impossibilities staring you in the face, you can’t help but stand in utter disbelief and awe at the accomplishments of these ancient civilizations.

This is an example of the benefit of “knowledge adventuring” wherein we dig, educate and discover facts not previously known or admitted within the paradigms of orthodox historians.

In a similar vein, one has to simply visit the incredible structures of castles, palaces and cathedrals of Europe to be instantly in awe at the fantastic engineering, art and architecture employed. You can stand in these edifices and simply be blown away by the sheer size and complexity of their structure and artistry.  How did they accomplish it?  How did they cut, move and precisely fit these stones several hundred feet in the air when modern cranes did not exist? It’s absolutely amazing to wonder and admire these accomplishments.

Human-made artifacts aren’t likely to produce wonder?  Think again.

 

Wonder Generates Awe?

As noted above, Mr. Fuller’s book attempts to differentiate between awe and wonder, and states at one point that “wonder generates awe.”  I cannot agree.  In fact, it should be just the opposite.  Awe generates wonder.  One follows from the other; clear and simple.

When we’re exposed to a gorgeous vista, the limitlessness of the cosmos, the incredible beauty of the world around us, the mind-blowing engineering involved in constructing the world’s most impressive edifices . . .  we can’t help but be dumb-struck with awe. . . .gobsmacked by the object and beauty before us.

As I see it, these emotions progress and are triggered thus:

Awe = Gobsmacked by an experience or object.

Wonder = Reflection on the gobsmacked awe, beauty and impressiveness of what we just experienced. Philosophizing on the larger questions of how and why these incredible things are even in existence. How did they come to be?

Curiosity & Interest = The actions we take as a result of the gob-smacked awe and its resulting wonder that drives us to learn, discover, understand, assimilate and integrate the mysteries of these events and objects into our lives.

 

“Once the emotions have been aroused – a sense of the beautiful, the excitement of the new and unknown, a feeling of sympathy, pity, admiration or love – then we wish for knowledge about the object of our emotional response. Once found, it has lasting meaning.”
– Rachel Carson

 

Closing Thoughts

I think an interesting study (if it could even be done) is whether people who lack a sense of wonder about the world can possibly re-develop that sense. I’m not sure. We lose much of our wonder and our senses are dulled into the mundane by years of schooling, work and cultural conditioning.

The only hope, perhaps, would be for individuals to step back away from the cultural paradigms and social conditioning and begin asking questions about those “givens.”  To be Walking Question Marks. To dig, discover, appreciate and enculture an open and awakened mind (Knowledge Adventuring). As a natural progression during this pulling away from the normal and mundane, a person will also gradually stop taking beauty, life and truth for granted. Then wonder can take hold again.

I encourage anyone to wonder about the world all around you. Pursue beauty, life and truth. Enrich your lives with the benefits produced by a sense of wonder.

 

“In wonder you realize that this is it. You have the opportunity to swim through the river of life rather than just float on it, to own your life rather than be owned by it”
– Juan De Pascuale

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

El Escorial Library

Our trip to Spain this month found us visiting some incredible sites.  One of our notable visits (for me, at least) was the Monastery and Royal Palace of El Escorial in the town of San Lorenzo de El Escorial; specifically the Royal Library.

Biblioteca del monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial, by Xauxa Håkan Svensson, Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

The library consists of several rooms (most of them no longer used), however, only the Main Hall is opened to the public.  Measuring 177 feet long, 30 feet wide and 33 feet high it’s one large, wondrous gallery of gorgeous woodwork, frescoes, globes, armillaries and books.  It was established as the Royal library by Phillip II when the palace/monastery was created in the late 16th-century.

The library is believed to have been finished about 1585.  It was the first large-room library to use the “wall system” of book storage – where the bookshelves sit flush, lined up along the walls. Prior to that, libraries used lecterns or stalls to hold and store large folios. The initial 4,000 volumes came from Philip’s personal library, as well as additional books and manuscripts belonging to the Crown but kept elsewhere.

Books were purged over the centuries, particularly by a fire in 1671, but the library still maintains about 40,000 volumes including a number of Latin, Greek, Hebrew and Arabic manuscripts.

The library was designed by architect Juan de Herrera. The Herrera-designed bookcases were built by José Flecha, Juan Senén and Martín de Gamboa. The frescoes were painted by Pellegrino Tibaldi based on a theme defined by Father José de Sigüenza. You can see the influence of Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel paintings in these Tibaldi works.

The themed friezes are anchored at each end of the hall by semicircular tympanums; the northern end is Philosophy (acquired knowledge) and the southern end is Theology (revealed knowledge). In between the two, within the seven main panels on the ceiling, are representations of the seven subjects of the liberal arts: the Trivium (Grammar, Rhetoric, Dialectics) and Quadrivium (Arithmetic, Music, Geometry, Astronomy). Along the sides directly above the bookcases are images of significant historical figures and scenes corresponding to the liberal art designated on the ceiling above them.

Details about the frescoes:

The vault is occupied by personifications of the Liberal Arts and Sciences, painted di sotto in sù and surrounded by giants. In the lunettes are representations of individuals, from antiquity onwards, who had cultivated these disciplines. Scenes on the friezes refer to the trivium and quadrivium. Of the former, Grammar is represented by the School of Babylon and the Tower of Babel, Rhetoric by Hercules the Gaul and Cicero Defending Gaius Rabirius, and Dialectics or Logic by SS Ambrose and Augustine and Zeno of Elea Showing the Gates of Truth and Error.

Of the quadrivium, Arithmetic is represented by the Gymnosophists and Solomon and the Queen of Sheba, Music by Orpheus Rescuing Eurydice and David Playing the Harp before Saul, Geometry by the Death of Archimedes and the Priests of Egypt Dividing the Lands and Astronomy by the Solar Eclipse at Heliopolis after the Death of Christ and King Hezekiah Contemplating the Orbit of the Sun.

Philosophy on the north wall (the School of Athens with Zeno and Socrates) and Theology on the south (Constantine the Great at the Council of Nicaea) complete the programme as the basis and goal of knowledge. The upper library is decorated with a comprehensive series of portraits of saints, pontiffs, sages and artists.

Source:  https://el-escorial.com/el-escorial-decoration/

The books are shelved with their spines inwards towards the wall; the gilt-edged pages face outwards with the title written on them – ostensibly to protect the bindings from light and allow the pages to “breathe.”  The effect is quite impressive with gold shimmering at the visitor from within the shelves.

The center of the main hall has tables with a collection of maps, globes, astrolabes, and other scientific items – including an outstanding, huge armillary sphere built by Antonio Santucci about 1582. The world and celestial globes were made by Joan Blaeu about 1660. These items conveyed the scientific dimension that Philip II desired for his library.

I was mesmerized by the room’s beauty and grandeur; and was particularly enchanted by the frescoes and what/who they represented.  I was trying my best to discover the various historic figures’ names represented in all the panels on ribbons next to each.

The library fell into neglect after Philip II’s death in 1598.  There was also the aforementioned fire in 1671.  Philip V decided to create a national library in Madrid and therefore the El Escorial library discontinued any additions to its collections.  Finally, the library was reorganized and catalogued in 1885. Thank goodness it was saved and preserved. It’s a gorgeous and magnificent tribute to knowledge, discovery and beauty!

 

Photos from our visit . . . .

 

Some additional images from Creative Commons on flickr . . .

El Escorial – astronomy ball o’ fun” by Rebecca is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

la biblioteca en el monasterio de san lorenzo” by bob is licensed under CC BY 2.0

 

The Library at El Escorial” by John Keogh is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

 

 

Sources:

  • Jacques Bosser and Guillaume de Laubier, The Most Beautiful Libraries In The World (New York: Harry N. Abrams, 2003), 188-197
  • James W.P. Campbell and Will Pryce, The Library: A World History (Chicago, The University of Chicago Press, 2013)
  • Carmen Garcia-Frias and Jose Luis Sancho, Guide – Real Monasterio de San Lorenzo de El Escorial (Madrid: Patrimonio Nacional, 2017), 28-32.
  • Jérôme Coignard, Manuel Jover and Jean-François Lasnier, The Royal Monastery of San Lorenzo de El Escorial (Connaissance des Arts), 36-39.
  • El Escorial Monastery, el-escorial.co
  • El Escorial, Wikipedia

 

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.

 

 

 

Biltmore Library

One of my favorite places in the world is the Biltmore Estate in Asheville, North Carolina.  It was built by George Washington Vanderbilt II, grandson of Cornelius “The Commodore” Vanderbilt. Completed and opened to friends and family during Christmas 1895, it’s the largest private residence in the United States, and is still owned by descendants of the family.

George Washington Vanderbilt by John Singer Sargent
Public Domain, Link

 

The “house” is a gorgeous châteauesque-styled mansion designed by Richard Morris Hunt on gloriously landscaped grounds designed by Frederick Law Olmstead.  Originally more than 125,000 acres and encompassing Mount Pisqah, the estate is now down to about 8,000 acres.

Biltmore Estate, Asheville, North Carolina, USA – by JcPollock, CC BY-SA 3.0

 

The three mile approach road, mansion, formal gardens and grounds are absolutely breathtaking and one has to pause in awe-and-wonder as to how such a magnificent and grand estate could possibly be located in the North Carolina countryside.  Arriving at the house proper you feel as though you’re on the grounds of a fantastic French chateau.

The mansion is FULL of incredible rooms, lush furnishings and exquisite art.  Its 175,000 square-feet houses 250 rooms, including 35 bedrooms, 43 bathrooms, 3 kitchens, 65 fireplaces, winter garden room, billiard room, banquet hall, breakfast room, music room, smoking room, tapestry gallery, 2-lane bowling alley, gymnasium, and indoor swimming pool.  The specific focus for this article, however, is the spectacular two-story library.

 

Biltmore Library

George was a consummate autodidact, never attending college, yet pulled by a passion of intense reading and learning since his youth.  According to a journal he kept, between 1875 and his untimely death in 1914 he read 3,159 books – an average of 81 per year.

George’s passion was the pursuit of knowledge, learning and appreciation for the arts.  With the help of Richard Morris Hunt, he built this library as a testament to that passion.  The room houses about 10,000 of George Vanderbilt’s 23,000 volume collection.  The rest of the books are throughout the house and in storage.  He was known to read up to eight languages (as well as translating Sanskrit and Hebrew). Works in the collection date all the way back to 1561.

The two-story room is 53 x 72 feet and 27 feet high. Its volumes cover a range of favorite subjects close to George’s heart:  history, art, architecture, landscape design, forestry, nature, interior design, travel, literature, religion, philosophy, and foreign languages.

The incredible ceiling painting titled “The Chariots of Aurora” by Giovanni Pellegrini was obtained from the Palazzo Pisani (now the Conservatorio di Musica B. Marcello) in Venice, Italy. The sculptor Karl Bitter executed the wood mantle and andiron sculptures for the fireplace.

The second floor balcony of the library is accessed via a gorgeous spiral staircase.  To get from one side of the balcony to the other you have to pass behind the fireplace through secret doors above the mantle.

During the tour of the spectacular home, you’re only allowed into a small portion of the library near its entrance; the rest is roped off.  Still . . . it’s incredibly awe-inspiring!.  Every time I enter it from the Tapestry Gallery my soul is energized by the design, architecture and the wealth of knowledge and beauty on its shelves.

I yearn to peruse the library for hours, days and months; pulling volumes from the shelves and sitting in the rich sumptuousness of the room, reading, learning, absorbing, appreciating and succumbing to the treasures within.

Unfortunately you are not allowed to take photos of the interior during your tour, else I would share many.

Enjoy these images.  Thanks to all who choose to share your photos via Creative Commons!  You can also Google many other beautiful copyrighted images online.

 

This photo of Biltmore Estate is courtesy of TripAdvisor

 

2016 Biltmore Candlelight Christmas-36” by Hal McGee is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

Library inside Biltmore” by Chor Ip is licensed under CC BY SA 2.0

 

056 library” by mksfca is licensed under CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

 

Library at the Biltmore” by Erin Johnson is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0

 

2016 Biltmore Candlelight Christmas-32” by Hal McGee is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
(bust of George Vanderbilt by Scottish artist Mary Grant)

 

2016 Biltmore Candlelight Christmas-42” by Hal McGee is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

 

2016 Biltmore Candlelight Christmas-57” by Hal McGee is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
(mantle sculpture by Karl Bitter)

 

2016 Biltmore Candlelight Christmas-35” by Hal McGee is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
(doorway from the Library into the Den)

 

2016 Biltmore Candlelight Christmas-58” by Hal McGee is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 2.0
(Beautiful andirons by Karl Bitter)

 

Biltmore Estate Library” by Amy Meredith is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

 

Biltmore Estate Library” by Amy Meredith is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0

 

 

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.

 

 

 

What is “Mundane”?

 

What do I Mean by “Mundane”?

I use the word “mundane” frequently, and realized I should probably level-set on its meaning.
So . . .  what exactly is “mundane”?

From  my perspective and life-philosophy, the mundane in life is bare minimum “living.”

It looks something like this:

Work, eat, consume, zone out on media, sleep.
Wash, rinse, repeat.

Do the same thing day-after-day, week-after-week, year-after-year.

It’s about just getting through the work day, then escaping through television, social media, shopping, eating and drinking.  Life in a daily rut of routine.

Lower your life expectations to accomplish only the minimum to get by – – basic survival and escapism. Set the bar as low as you can for living.

Most people are:

  • not driven by passion for excelling
  • not driven by Purpose
  • not identifying with important core Values
  • not pursuing Growth and Self-Actualization
  • not achieving life goals
  • not pursuing an enriched life
  • not living with adventure

Instead, most simply become comfortable with routine, and routine only.

 

Can We Ignore the Mundane?

If we strive to be a self-actualizer, can we ignore the mundane in life?  No.
Should we shirk our mundane responsibilities?  No, not unless we arrange to pay others to do them for us.
Should we get satisfaction out of accomplishing mundane tasks?  Yes, I think we should.

However, the enriched living approach should be:

  • Tackle the mundane, get it out of the way.
  • THEN pursue the passion and excellence in our life’s Purpose and Mission.

Take whatever satisfaction you can with accomplishing the mundane, but know there is WAY more to living a life of purpose, joy and satisfaction.

Don’t let the sum of your life be a totality of mundaneness.  Move beyond it to realize greater potential and life happiness.  Pursue living an Enriched Life!

“Are you really living life . . .  Or are you just paying bills until you die?”

 

How to Move Beyond Mundaneness

Eliminate the time vampires in your life and do something – anything – beyond the mundane. Consciously use your time on this Earth better than letting it waste away.  Stop being a couch potato and choose to spend that time making life a bit more of an adventure. . .

Read books, learn something new, keep learning, develop a hobby, travel, tackle projects, build, create, write, visit parks, get out in nature, hike, kayak, visit museums, appreciate art, take up art (whether visual or performing), listen to beautiful music, go to art shows and other festivals, take family outings, go camping, find the magic in discovering history, explore your city, appreciate architecture, drive or walk through a historic neighborhood, visit beautiful landscape gardens, surround yourself with beauty, restore something old, develop a craft, collect something meaningful to you, unclutter your life of the things that aren’t important to you, go to concerts, redecorate or remodel your living space, learn new skills, try something new.

Get the idea?  Reach for more. Choose something that resonates with your interests. Don’t settle for the mundane as the only option for living.

Your efforts don’t have to be perfect.  The goal is to get out of the rut of the mundane and actually LIVE life doing the things that are truly important to your core.

Yes . . . .do the mundane, as a matter of being an element of life, just don’t get mired in the mundane.  Fit more substance into your life.

“Don’t live the same year 75 times and call it a life.”   – Robin Sharma

 

 

 

 

Growth and Self-Actualization

If you resonate with any of the messages presented to you in the writings on this site, you’re already of the mindset of someone who knows the importance of Growth and Self-Actualization.

But what is it exactly?  Why is it important – at least to some of us who are driven beyond the normal and mundane?

 

Growth

Personal Growth is the desire to self-develop yourself; to become more than you are today; to discover the possibilities within you; to achieve more in life (and I don’t necessarily mean material achievements).

Not all people are interested in personal growth.  I think it must be due to personality differences.  For me – and the audience I write for – the need to self-improve, self-discover, grow and expand your personal horizons is an important element of life.  I can’t get away from it.  It’s part of my personal being – part of my life’s Purpose and Mission – even before I went through the formality to determine them several years ago. I always knew deep within there was more to discover and more to accomplish. I had to take that path.

Growth doesn’t come from doing nothing, or doing the same thing over and over.  If during your waking hours you’re only working your job, watching TV, playing video games and sleeping, you won’t get Growth. It can’t happen. Couch Potato-ism doesn’t equal growth.

“If you always do what you’ve always done, you always get what you’ve always gotten.” – Jessie Potter

If you desire to live an enriched life in this mundane world, and you’re not living it now, then you must decide to do something different.  You need a burning desire within you to be more…. to do more…. to have an impact on yourself and others.  You need an internal fire within to grow as a human being towards your realized and exciting potential.

Growth comes in three opportunity packages:

  • Growth by starting something new
  • Growth by stopping something you are presently doing
  • Growth through the mistakes we make

You can see by this list that Growth requires action.  You have to start something new, stop something you’re doing, and/or make mistakes to learn valuable lessons.  Sitting secure in your comfort zone and doing nothing differently will not get you Growth.

“Seek opportunity, not security. A boat in a harbor is safe, but in time its bottom will rot out.” ― H. Jackson Brown Jr., Life’s Little Instruction Book

Make a decision to do something different.  Make a decision that will count for something critical to your best self.  Decide to grow – not rot.  Don’t sell yourself short.

“The story of the human race is the story of men and women selling themselves short.” – Abraham Maslow

 

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs

Perhaps you’ve heard of the Hierarchy of Needs?  It’s a psychological theory of motivation developed by Abraham Maslow, and is a step-by-step progression of human needs to be pursued for maximum satisfaction and happiness.  Here are the basics:

Think of a pyramid.  Human needs start at the bottom of the pyramid shown above and move upward as each is achieved.  Here’s the hierarchy in the order they’re typically met (bottom-to-top in the diagram):

  1. Physiological Needs – It starts at the bottom of the pyramid with the fact that people in a base/primitive existence will be trying to achieve physiological needs (air, water, food, sex – basic human survival needs).
  2. Safety Needs -Once the basic survival needs are met, people can then be concerned with basic safety and security issues around personal life, health and finances.
  3. Love & Belonging Needs – Assuming physiological and safety needs have been met, then people will gravitate towards gaining psychological needs of loving and belonging – feeling loved and accepted (friendships, family, relationships).
  4. Esteem – After achieving the prior three needs, we move to pursuing the needs of ego and social status.  We desire to be respected and valued by others.
  5. Self-actualization – After mastering esteem and the other needs, an industrious person can now work towards becoming the best self they can be.  To self-actualize.

Maslow called the first four needs basic or deficiency needs – meaning, they are a lack of something and are met externally.  The final need is called a growth need – and is not a lack of something externally but instead a desire for personal growth, which is met internally.

The growth need of self-actualization moves a person beyond other people’s opinions – or any external validation for that matter.  Its driven by a desire deep within us.

Not all needs have to be met in the precise order presented in the theory.  There are individuals who tackle their growth need at the same time as they’re working on some of their deficiency needs; there’s no hard-and-fast rule.

Self-Actualization

This article is concerned with the highest need – the growth need of “Self-Actualization.”

What does Self-Actualization really mean?

“What a man can be, he must be. This need we may call self-actualization…It refers to the desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially. This tendency might be phrased as the desire to become more and more what one is, to become everything that one is capable of becoming.” – Abraham Maslow, 1954, Motivation and Personality

This is a state of being; of self-awareness and concern for fulfilling your potential.  Maslow referred to those in this state as “self-actualizers.”

Growth and self-development is a lifelong process.  You really don’t ever get to a point where you can say you’ve completed your path to self-actualization.  It’s a process of wonderful growth and self-discovery, progressing continually to realize your potential.

Your Purpose and Mission should be a result of deep reflection and passion for what is critically important to your being, and this will directly drive your path to self-actualization.  Follow your passion and bliss.  Let it drive your life and its actions in fulfilling your potential. Live a life of self-discovery and adventure!

 

What are the Characteristics of a Self-Actualizer?

I have to admit that I hadn’t previously been exposed to Maslow’s list of characteristics for Self-Actualizers.  It’s quite an eye opener, and I see many that apply to my own life – particularly over the last 30 years of growth.  A self-actualizer doesn’t necessarily have to display all these elements of character.  As stated previously, this is a process.  As long as you’re able to look at the list and see some of them reflected in your growth path, then you’re on the right track.

Here is the list direct from Maslow’s Motivation and Personality, Chapter 11, “Self-Actualizing People: A Study Of Psychological Health”:

1) More Efficient Perception of Reality and More Comfortable Relations with it

Self-actualizers have a keen sense of realism. This includes the ability to correctly judge people because they can detect false and dishonest people. They live more in the real world of nature than the man-made abstractions, beliefs and stereotypes most people confuse as the world. They are logical and rational, perceiving what is real rather than their own (or other’s) wishes, hopes, anxieties or beliefs. They’re not frightened or threatened by the unknown or ambiguous; rather, they often desire and welcome it.

 

2) Acceptance (Self, Others, Nature)

Self-actualizers accept themselves and others as they are. Because they more clearly perceive reality, they see human nature as it is and not as they would prefer it to be.  They accept it and don’t give it much concern or thought, viewing any deficiencies as neutral personality characteristics.  Because of this they tend to lack guilt, shame, inhibition or anxiety – enjoying life free from these burdens, without regret or apology.

 

3) Spontaneity; Simplicity; Naturalness

Self-actualizers are relatively open, spontaneous and unconventional – in both thoughts and behavior. They’re not confined by norms – not allowing rules and regulations they feel are trivial to prevent them from achieving their important goals.  Although unconventional, if the situation calls for it, they will go through the ceremonies and rituals of convention with a good-humored shrug and with the best possible grace.

 

4) Problem Centering

Self-actualizers focus on problems that are outside of themselves (problem-centered) rather than problems within themselves (ego-centered). They typically have a mission in life to fulfill which enlists their energies – tasks they feel compelled to do for others. They feel it is a calling to serve a greater cause. They’re concerned with basic issues and eternal questions in the philosophical and ethical realm. They live in the widest possible frame of reference, a large horizon, a broad vision, never losing sight of the forest due to the trees – focusing on the big picture.

 

5) The Quality of Detachment; the Need of Privacy

Self-actualizers positively like and desire their solitude and privacy. Since they’ve moved beyond deficiency needs and are focused on growth, they don’t need others in the ordinary sense. They don’t need external reassurances, or other’s opinions. They’re very independent and use their time for developing their own individual potential. This detachment is often viewed by others as aloof, cold, snobbish, and unfriendly.  They’re objective, strong self-starters who are active, make up their mind and are responsible for their own decisions and destinies. They’re not pawns who are helplessly “determined” by others.

 

6) Autonomy; Independence of Culture and Environment; Will; Active Agents

Self-actualizers are independent and not reliant on their main satisfactions coming from their external environment or other people. They are “self-contained.”  While deficiency-motivated people need others available to satisfy their lower hierarchy needs (safety, love, respect, prestige, belongingness), growth-motivated people are actually hampered by others. Their satisfactions come from within rather than from outside social interactions.

 

7) Continued Freshness of Appreciation

Self-actualizers have the wonderful capacity to repeatedly appreciate, freshly and naively, the basic goodness of life, with awe, pleasure, wonder, and even ecstasy, however stale these experiences may have become to others.  They experience a richness of subjective experience in the form of joy, ecstasy, pleasure, inspiration and strength – whether in music, beauty, nature, people, or even in the basic elements of life. They don’t take their blessings for granted and maintain a sincere gratitude for life.

 

8) The Mystic Experience; The Peak Experience

Self-actualizers experience moments that Maslow called mystic or “peak” experiences. This is an intensification of any experience in which there’s a loss of self or transcendence of it.  The experience can provide feelings of limitless horizons, the feeling of great ecstasy and wonder and awe, the loss of placing in time and space, and finally, the conviction that something extremely important and valuable had happened.  The individual is to some extent transformed and strengthened even in his daily life by such experiences. The intense feelings do not come all the time but occasionally and at the most unexpected moments.They can also occur in lesser degrees of intensity.  While one would be apt to identify this as a religious or supernatural experience, it’s actually a natural experience.

 

9) Gemeinschaftsgefühl (Identification with mankind)

Gemeinschaftsgefühl, a word invented by Alfred Adler, describes the feelings for mankind expressed by self-actualizated people: it’s an identification with humankind. They have a genuine desire to help the human race, as if they were all members of a single family. Even though the self-actualized person is very different from other people in thought, impulse, behavior and emotion, they have a deep sense of empathy for those around them. They are often saddened, exasperated, and even enraged by the shortcomings of the average person, yet however far apart they are from them at times, they nevertheless feel a basic underlying kinship with them – much as an older brother.

 

10) Interpersonal Relations

Self-actiualizers have deeper and more profound relationships than any other adults. They’re capable of deep ties and greater love than other people would consider possible. However, these especially deep ties occur with only a few individuals.  They have a small circle of friends and these relationships are likely to be healthier and closer than the average person – much closer.

 

11) The Democratic Character Structure

Self-actualizers are friendly with anyone of suitable character regardless of class, education, political belief, race, or color. As a matter of fact it often seems as if they are not even aware of these differences, which are for the average person so obvious and so important. They find it possible to learn from anybody who has something to teach them – no matter what other characteristics he may have. They share a quality that could be called humility of a certain type – humble before people who can teach them something that they do not know or who have a skill they do not possess.

 

12) Discrimination Between Means and Ends, Between Good and Evil

Self-actualizers are fixed more on the ends rather than the means. The journey is just as enjoyable and important as the arrival. Very few are religious in the orthodox sense, but they have strong ethical and moral standards and are certain about what’s right and wrong (although their notions of right and wrong and of good and evil are often not the conventional ones).

 

13) Philosophical, Unhostile Sense of Humor

Self-actualizers are often seen by the average person as rather sober and serious. Their sense of humor is not of the ordinary type. They don’t find humor in making fun of people in a hurtful, denigrating way.  Philosophically-oriented, thoughtful humor is more to their liking – poking fun at foolishness or inflated egos – even laughing at themselves. Think of it as humor with a message.

 

14) Creativeness

Self-actualizers are creative in a youthful, childlike manner.  They retain a fresh, naive and direct way of looking at life. Most people lose this as they become enculturated, but not those who are self-actualized….. they’re more spontaneous, more natural, more human. They do things without inhibition and with spirit and insight of perception. They’re not necessarily gifted with a “special” talent such as playing the piano or writing literature or poetry, but display more of an uninhibited, youthful, creative expression – like young children.

 

15) Resistance to Enculturation; the Transcendence of any Particular Culture

Self-actualizers maintain a certain inner detachment from the culture in which they’re immersed. They’re autonomous and less molded by societal influences. They may appear to be culturally adapted in terms of what they wear or their social practices, but it’s not a genuine “buy in.”  If cultural conventions are too annoying or troublesome, they rid themselves of this superficiality and focus on what’s important to them.  They’re not radical rebels, but if needed – they could be. They’re primarily intellectual in nature and have a mission of something important to improve the world. They’re not likely to make useless sacrifices – being more of a realist.

“Everything in your life is a reflection of a choice you have made. If you want a different result, make a different choice.” – Unknown

 

It’s Your Choice.

Life is about choices.  Our lives are the sum total of the consequences of our choices.  Choose to be more.  Choose to pursue your potential.  Choose to self-discover.  Choose to adventure in Growth and Self-Actualization!

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  – Mark Twain

 

“Human life will never be understood unless its highest aspirations are taken into account. Growth, self-actualization, the striving toward health, the quest for identity and autonomy, the yearning for excellence (and other ways of phrasing the striving “upward”) must by now be accepted beyond question as a widespread and perhaps universal tendency . . .” – Abraham Maslow, 1954, Motivation and Personality

 

Self-actualizing people enjoy life in general and practically all its aspects, while most other people enjoy only stray moments of triumph.” – Abarham Maslow

 

“Growth takes place when the next step forward is subjectively more delightful, more joyous, more intrinsically satisfying than the previous gratification which we have become familiar or even bored. – Abraham Maslow

 

 

Some decent online 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.

 

 

Your Purpose and Mission in Life

Why should anyone be concerned with identifying their Purpose and Mission in life?  What good is it?  Will it really make any difference with living life in this hodgepodge world of the mundane and chaotic?

What’s the difference between Purpose, Mission and Vision?  Do I need big goals to have a Purpose and Mission?  Or is it the other way around?  Is this some kind of useless, fuzzy-bullshit, corporate or new age stuff?

Hang on, let’s see what it means for you . . .

 

What Are The Benefits of Identifying a Personal Purpose & Mission?

Do you bounce around life in an uncontrolled fashion not really knowing why you’re doing something – like a cork tossed about on the surface of a stormy sea?

Are you dissatisfied and frustrated with life? Do you have an anxiousness within; a nagging feeling that something isn’t right and there’s more to life than what you’re living?

Do you wonder if you’re here on Earth for a specific reason but have no idea how to identify that reason?

If so, then you could reap great rewards from taking the time to determine your personal Purpose and Mission in life.

Here are the compelling benefits:

  • Laser-like focus for your life; Avoid distractions; Eliminate wasted time and energy
  • Know what’s most important to you; Live a purpose-driven life with a sense of direction
  • Simplified decision-making – no waffling; Know exactly what you should or shouldn’t be doing
  • Live a life of certainty, confidence and self-esteem
  • Stay aligned with your critical personal core values, and attract people who have similar values
  • Change your life in an extremely positive way; get incredible results; Accomplish valuable goals; Impact the world; Leave a legacy
  • Experience a sense of energy, excitement, motivation, passion and gratitude
  • Know who you are – to the core; See the Big Picture
  • Experience in-depth happiness and satisfaction
  • Gain personal freedom and independence

Without identifying a personal Purpose and Mission you’re relinquishing your future to a haphazard road map of unquestioned turns and directions.

Don’t live with randomness, indecision, doubt, uncertainty, and confusion.

“You are the architect of your dreams.” – Andy Andrews

 

What is the Difference Between Purpose and Mission?

Purpose . . . Mission . . . Vision . . . Goals . . .  What’s the difference?  Don’t they all get you to where you need to go?

Maybe.  It depends on the order you tackle them.

If you simply start setting big goals without having identified your Purpose and Mission, you run the risk of choosing goals that others portray to you as important.  What good is it to pursue other people’s goals?  It just leads to dissatisfaction, frustration and unhappiness.

Most of the online resources don’t bother distinguishing a rigid difference across Purpose, Mission and Vision.  And even the ones who attempt it have varied success in conveying why you should even bother splitting hairs about the differences.

From a general perspective, here are the nuances:

PURPOSEWhy do you exist?  Why are you here?  Your purpose is the reason why you should be doing what you’re doing in life – your raison d’être. It brings excitement and passion to living. It’s the truest & deepest meaning of life for you.

MISSIONHow will you accomplish your purpose.? How will you get there?  How will you focus?  What will you do and How will you do it?  It’s about action.  Mission is your personal philosophy of what you hope to be and intend to accomplish, based on your Purpose.  It’s doing what matters and eliminating the distractions. What will you allow in your life and how will you positively influence others?

VISIONWhat will it look like when you arrive at your destination? Where do you want to be?  This is a mental picture of your optimal future state – the Result you want to obtain based on your Purpose and Mission. What does the difference you’ll make look like? It’s a vivid and inspirational mental picture of where you ultimately want to be in life. It inspires you to set goals.

 

Some workshop exercises ignore Purpose because it comes out within the Mission and Vision.  Others ignore Vision and focus on Purpose and Mission. Some identify Purpose as being the same as Mission.  If you follow the better workshop exercises, you’ll end up getting to the critical end-point either way, which is identifying your Purpose and Mission.

The way I see it:   Purpose drives Mission which, in turn, drives Vision, which drives Goals

Purpose —-> Mission —–> Vision —–> Goals

Several less-than-adequate resources will have you defining goals before you’ve identified your Purpose and Mission.  I adamantly DISAGREE.  It’s foolish to identify goals before Purpose and Mission.  That’s one of the problems with living your social conditioned life – because you’re likely to be convinced something outside you is your true Purpose and Mmission – when it is not.  You end up pursuing goals that others have identified for you as critical and valuable, and you mistakenly see them as important.  They’re not your true goals. This is a road to frustration and unhappiness.

 

How To Identify Your Life’s Purpose & Mission

The best method to determine your Personal Purpose and Mission is an exercise in self-discovery. You need to spend some quality quiet time with a series of introspective questions and an honest attempt on your part to self-discover.

The best online resources I’ve found with a great set of questions are nearly identical and can be found here:

Those two, by far, have the most effective set of questions to allow a proper introspective adventure and self-discovery.

A couple of decent runner-ups (but not quite as thorough) include:

 

Introspection time . . . Your Purpose

The first article noted above has fifteen excellent questions to identify your life Purpose.

Find a quiet place and time. Take a pad of paper and write out your answers as quick as they come to you – the first thing that pops in your head. Be honest with yourself and don’t give other people’s answers.  Answer genuinely about you; from your gut.

Don’t edit.  Don’t second guess. Don’t change your answers.  Spend only about 30 to 60 seconds per question.

Go back through your answers and circle or highlight the words and phrases that jump out at you as the most important. Prioritize them from most important to least important.

Think about your true passion . . . what is it?

Combine that passion with your prioritized words into a sentence or two that best describes your purpose.

 

Bonus Introspection:

I had four memorable introspective events that helped solidify my Purpose.

  • My first encounter with any kind of exercise in a Personal Purpose or Mission was probably about 1995, in the early days of the web.  I had become interested in self-improvement and success and came across a brief exercise online someone had written – probably for identifying life goals.  It had a major impact on me, stopping me in my tracks and forcing me to look inward for genuine answers to my true purpose – not just pursuing monetary “success” in life at the expense of all else – instead, something real and significant.

The scenario?

Imagine yourself on your Deathbed. Look back over your life and where it’s brought you in this moment.  What will you need to have done and accomplished to feel that you lived life well?  A fulfilling, meaningful life?  Throughout your life, what’s been most important as you ready yourself for death?

  • Then, about three-to-five years ago, I found a particularly significant question in an introspective exercise.  This made a huge difference for me.  Identifying a Gnawing Purpose:

Think back over your entire childhood, adolescence and early adulthood.  What is it that continually came up over and over through those years that was very important to you – a passion for you? Something gnawing at you that you couldn’t let go and forget – or outgrow?  A relentless feeling to pursue something. What was the repetitive theme, value, or activity?

  • In late 2012, I went though a process to identify my Core Personal Values.  This, too, really helped zero in on my Purpose.
  • I’ve always had an issue with procrastination and lack of action to implement my biggest desires (due to recurring fear, self-doubt and perfectionism).  In late 2015 I finally bit the bullet and decided I wanted to take action on what/how I wanted to leave a Legacy.  (Legacy is missing from the exercise above, but appears in some of the other sources noted in this article.)  That’s what pushed me to the point of creating and focusing on this web site. I created it in January 2016 with the intent to write for whoever could relate – anyone with open ears, eyes and mind.  But my main focus was to perhaps influence one or more of my descendants to live beyond the norm; to excel and live a fulfilling life.
“While goals are chosen, a purpose is discovered. Our purpose is something we have been doing all along, and will continue to do, regardless of circumstances, until the day we die.”
― Peter McWilliams, Do It!

Your Mission Statement

The same article goes on to describe how to identify your life Mission:

A personal mission consists of 3 parts . . .

  • What do I want to do?
  • Who do I want to help?
  • What is the result? What value will I create?

Follow the steps in the article to create your Personal Mission Statement.

You personal Mission Statement should get you excited about life. It should be action oriented – describing what you want to do with your life and who/what will you impact.

Your life from this point forward should be guided by the results of this exercise.  Your Purpose and Mission will allow you to more easily make decisions based on what you should be doing with your life.  If new opportunities and activities arise that don’t align with your Purpose and Mission – don’t pursue them.

Mission Statement Tips:

– Keep it short & positive
– Make it emotional: It should infuse you with passion and ignite the fire within you
– Make it future-oriented & include the people who matter most

Your personal Purpose and Mission Statement should drive your Vision and Goals – pushing you to excel in the very thing you’re on the Earth to achieve.

This self-discovery exercise is powerful.  It will change your life. It will give you confidence and focus.

Go for it!

 

“A man should conceive of a legitimate purpose in his heart, and set out to accomplish it. He should make this purpose the centralizing point of his thoughts. He should make this purpose his supreme duty, and should devote himself to its attainment, not allowing his thoughts to wander away into ephemeral fancies, longings, and imaginings. This is the royal road to self-control and true concentration of thought.”      – James Allen, As a Man Thinketh

 

“Thought allied fearlessly to purpose becomes creative force: he who knows this is ready to become something higher and stronger than a mere bundle of wavering thoughts and fluctuating sensations; he who does this has become the conscious and intelligent wielder of his mental powers,”   – James Allen, As a Man Thinketh

 

Some of the best online sources for this topic:

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.

 

SpaceX – Engineering and Technology Awe & Wonder

What an incredible achievement by private enterprise that inspires and strikes me with awe and wonder . . .

(video starts at 8:00 minute mark)

I just love the way SpaceX does their launch coverage: allowing a huge crowd inside mission control, young energetic people to describe what’s going on, people of both sexes working within mission control, and video cameras mounted everywhere showing you live what’s going on, before and throughout the actual launch.

It’s also extremely impressive how they display the capability of launching a large number of missions in such a short period of time. For instance: They’ve had five launches in just under two months, including this one.  They had eighteen launches in all of 2017!

What a remarkable company, employing accomplished engineers, technicians, specialists, etc! AMAZING. And this time . . . having some fun with it too by using Elon Musk’s Tesla Roadster and Starman dummy as the payload to a Mars orbit. This is very inspiring and gives me goosebumps while watching – in total awe at the marvel of the engineering used – particularly the return and landing of the booster rockets. THAT is a fantastic accomplishment in and of itself.

Government-funded NASA could never match these type of accomplishments, nor the costs.

Total inspiration!

 

 

Values – Personal Core

 

What Exactly Are Values?

Value can fall into several arenas:

  1. Economic – the material worth of something compared to the monetary price paid.
  2. Utility/Importance – something held in high regard due to its usefulness or importance to you.
  3. Aesthetic – this could technically be a part of Utility/Importance, above, but has a more specific relation to art, beauty, harmony and nature such that it elicits a pleasurable experience for the viewer.
  4. Personal-Core/Ethical – what’s most important to you in life; the guiding principles of your life that dictate action & behavior; it defines who you are.

The primary focus of this article is #4 – Personal Core values.  These are principles, standards or convictions we feel are deeply important to our lives.  Theoretically, these elements of our core should drive our daily activities and behavior – serving as a compass or beacon for our actions.  They are instilled in us culturally throughout our life as we grow and learn.

Rarely, though, does anyone attempt to actually identify their core values.  Because of this, and the chaos and lack of focus they experience daily, they find themselves with a nagging feeling something is missing.  Let’s change that.  Let’s live life with self-confidence and direction. Let’s make better and more confident decisions.  Let’s eliminate the time vampires in our lives if they don’t align with our values.  Let’s embrace what’s really important and drive up our joy and happiness quotient.

 

A “Default” Life

It’s so easy to get caught up in the day-to-day chaos.  Our attention is yanked left and right by the pressing urgency of our work & personal lives, and this is compounded by HUGE distractions thrown in our face every day via daily news drama.

If we choose NOT to take an active role in our life direction, it takes zero effort to allow our lives to be pulled into the mire of mundane chaos, depression and hopelessness that seems to surround us.  Days, weeks, months and years pass by; what have we really accomplished?  Are we happy? Or are we frustrated and exhausted?

Did we do what’s required of us in our job?  Did we do what’s required of us for our family, spouse, kids?  Did we do what’s required of us by any social or religious organizations? Did we vent a sigh of relief when we finally were able to sit and idle our minds and body once our daily regimen of responsible duties are complete?

Then……what did we do?  Did we tackle the important things in our personal lives that matters to us as individuals?  Did we pick up the activities we consider passions and pursue them with satisfied pleasure?  Or, were we too pooped-out for our passions?

This describes a “default” life – trying to live by a myriad of other values rather than yours (friend’s, church, education, professional/career, political, etc.).  The result is dissatisfaction, restlessness and anxiety . . . knowing something isn’t right . . . your life isn’t in control.

 

Moving Towards Living a ‘Designed’ Life

By identifying your core values you can live a more directed life, make more intelligent and better decisions, and focus on the things that really matter to you.  Having these values in the forefront of your mind helps you clearly identify priorities, eliminate drains on your time and energy, and enjoy a more focused, joyful life. You don’t get yanked about in an aimless direction by anything and everything that comes your way.  We should strive to live a life by “design” rather than by “default.”

Don’t get me wrong, the myriad of demands and choices doesn’t stop coming your way.  But by knowing your core values you’re prepared to take a stand and make decisions about what you focus upon.

 

How to Identify Your Core Values

This type of activity can be found in personal improvement books and websites.  You can simply Google core values or core values list and find many sites with lists and exercises to accomplish the task.

A couple of the best sites I found are linked below.  Each of these requires you to spend some time on introspection and reflection rather than just picking values from a list:

A couple of sites that have nice lists of values:

 

There are many benefits of living around your core values: satisfaction, contentment, happiness, fulfillment, purpose, meaning, peace of mind, self-confidence, harmony, success.  These are the result of living an authentic life without confusion, guilt or shame.

“It’s not hard to make decisions once you know what your values are.”  – Roy E. Disney

 

Is this activity producing value?

You’ll feel a sense of discovery and satisfaction after developing your list of top values.  Review it periodically as a continual reminder of what’s deeply important to you.

Each day, find ways to focus on activities that align with those values.  Eliminate as many activities and areas of focus that do not align.  (I wouldn’t recommend quitting your source of income, unless you have your dream job already lined up.)

The minutes of your life are finite.  Use them the best way possible, rather than squandering them aimlessly.  Make your life the best it can be.

Consider some of the following throughout your days and weeks:

  • Are the hours of my life creating value for me?
  • Does the decision I’m about to make align with my values?
  • Is the activity I’m about to partake in going to produce value in my life?  Does it support my core values?
  • Is the purchase I’m about to make going to provide value to my life?  Does it support my core values?

 

My Values

I went through an exercise five to ten years ago to identify my values.  They are (in no particular order):

  • Discovery/Learning/Knowledge, Truth/Accuracy, Beauty/Aesthetics, Growth/Self-Actualization, Freedom/Self-Reliance/Individualism, Integrity, Justice, Results, Creating/Building

Yes, this is more than the 5 or 10 the articles suggest.  However, I resonate with all of them and enjoy the reminder of their importance to my life.  Ultimately these values are what drove my selection of the Categories and Sub-categories used on this blog.

I use these to identify my life’s goals and document the important focal activities to pursue in something called a Strategy On A Page (SOAP).  This SOAP includes a list of those values plus areas of aligning focus for my life’s interests and pursuits.  I reference this through the year to ensure alignment to what’s most important.

The whole process of identifying and embracing my values has created more happiness and contentment in my life – a goal we should all embrace!

“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”  – Ralph Waldo Emerson

 

 

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.