It’s easy to lose sight of the important role beauty plays in our lives. It’s even easier to get lost in all the chaos of striving – e.g. making a living, putting a roof over our heads, food on the table, staying one step ahead of the proverbial Jones’s ad infinitum. I think we have it backwards though. Too often we prioritize the idea of making a living at the expense of making a life, as though the two are somehow mutually exclusive.
The way I see things, making a life acknowledges the need for both physical and mental/emotional sustenance, and what that means is that beauty is non-negotiable, that the more poetic aspects of living are something I cherish and seek to prioritize. There is a famous quote by the Persian poet Hafiz that gets to the heart of this, “Stay close to anything that makes you glad you’re alive.” Which is to say, stay close to what is real and what actually nourishes your soul rather than suffering substitutes (there are no substitutes). Our longing for what is real is something we need to stay in touch with if feeling vibrantly and truly alive is something we place value on.
It is said that the poetic is to be found in the small, quiet and fleeting moments of life. I tend to agree with this. It’s easy to be blinded, deafened and rendered senseless with all the noise of modern expectations roaring in our ears, flashing in our eyes and pounding away on our nerves. We can all too easily miss the morning light as it dapples down through the trees onto the sidewalk, or dismiss the importance of the music of the rain as it pitter-patters on the roof over our heads.
Modern life has a tendency to rip the soul out of everything. Our fetishizing of technology in particular has resulted in the creation of as many problems as it ever promised to solve. We are for instance going to, literally, be swimming in single-use plastic bottles, straws and other packaging in another 50 years if our habits of creating and consuming goods doesn’t change posthaste. Fact.
I think we can do better and a greater sensitivity for the value of the poetic in our lives is one way to start tapping into a better way of being in the world – of preserving life rather than exploiting it.
Let me leave you with this, a consoling thought by Alain de Boton:
“Being an artist always involves taking risks with serious imperfection; it means forgiving oneself for the horrors of the first, second and third drafts. In this particular sense, all of us should be artists: not of novels or buildings but of projects in our own lives. We need to keep faith with our goals without choking with disgust at our clumsy early manoeuvres.”
Love and courage.