Hey there, gorgeous
Here’s something I’m stealing from Rob Bell: beauty isn’t a nicety, it’s a core function of the world1. It can certainly feel like a luxury. Buying a painting that moves us or a piece of furniture or clothing that lights us up can seem frivolous. Many technologists and engineers have argued that function is far more important than form. Take most of what Microsoft has done. It’s very clear that Excel was written by engineers.
Yet, beauty is built into the world. We’ve all been stopped by a sunset or a mountain view. We’ve all had our breath taken by a flower or a bird. A fox. Music tends to contain beauty. From symphonies that are hundreds of years old, to new songs composed by teenagers, to ancient chants from previous millennia. The music of birds and wind. Why would the world contain something that isn’t completely necessary?
I think we could make an argument that it’s all necessary. It is, indeed, critical. The “why” of that might be something that we can’t quite wrap our brains around. Perhaps we are not meant to. We tend to look at usefulness or value add from some very specific places. Typically, it’s related to the systems of money that we live in. We wonder how this thing adds to the economy. How it creates jobs. How it increases productivity and effectiveness. From this place, we could never find a way to find value in simple beauty.
People buy art for its appreciation potential2. We invest in the music with “hit potential.” We seek to increase our personal beauty for belonging, or to connect to an idea of immortality.
The lens we are looking through limits our ability to hold a “why” that simply is. In his example, Rob Bell talks about flowers being beautiful in order to attract the insects they need for pollination. Even this is a transactional interpretation of beauty. What if the beauty is there simply because the universe desires to express its amazingness? What if pollination is an unexpected result of that beauty? What if our lives are made possible not because of some transactions that are being made by the life force, but simply because its expression is too much to resist?
Well, that is interesting as hell to me. What if life itself is here simply because it’s too good not to be? I have to say, for me, this makes the rest totally and completely irrelevant. I love this idea, now that I’m seeing it take shape.
Life can’t resist itself. It had no idea. Now it can’t stop.
How’s that for surprising?
Interesting, isn’t it, that this idea — to appreciate — is both about recognizing the full worth of and the rising value of something? English is weird.↩