The other morning I was at the dining room table working on some notes. In front of me was a newly potted basil plant, a bowl of apples, and our cat, Volver, who was taking a nap on some of my drawings. “How lovely”, I said to myself, and smiled. This simple scene had elevated my spirits.
Beauty gives us a sensation of happiness. But if we are surrounded by ugliness and degradation, we, too, feel degraded. It’s like the Broken Window Theory—a car with a broken window is more likely to be robbed and vandalized than is a car with windows intact. Similarly, we are less likely to litter in an area that’s clean than we are in an area that’s full of trash. If our surroundings influence our behaviour, then simply being surrounded by beauty can make us a better person.
The cultivation of beauty in everyday life modifies our mind. But beauty is not just visual. In his Nobel Prize acceptance lecture, Russian-American poet and essayist Joseph Brodsky said that aesthetics is the mother of ethics. In other words, beauty is also about the way we live our lives.
Our personal aesthetics are constantly being expressed by the way we interrelate with the world around us. Smiling, expressing gratitude, or even politely waiting our turn are, for example, extensions of these aesthetics. And have you ever noticed that, after doing a good deed, you feel a pleasant sensation? Or that altruistic people seem to be happier than egotists? Could it be that practicing moral beauty can create new neurological paths and transform us into a better person?
Unfortunately, I have no time now for further reflection as pragmatic duties demand my presence. However, one thing is certain– for the Age of Reconfiguration, I want to learn how to live my life as if it were a work of art in progress.