Commentary, Philosophies

Beauty as Necessity

I am not running for Congress, that much is clear. I’d like to begin with this statement because the following piece is going to seem like a pretty bald-faced “art in schools” speech. I’m not protecting the glee club, I’m not pushing for bigger arts budgets, and I’m not campaigning for mandatory music and art education.

Then again, maybe I am.

I’ll let you figure it out. Over the past several months my already kindling interest in graphic design, art, music, and photography has grown exponentially. I’ve found websites to stoke the flames, engaged in conversations with friends that cultivated my young ideals regarding the topic, I’ve even entered the creative “conversation” myself with my music and writing. The result has been difficult to ignore: either by accident or as a consequence, my demeanor has calmed, my relationships with others have grown more profound, and my appreciation of the little things in life has grown. In short, I’m discovering the fourth human necessity.

My interest began with a graphic designer and musician by the name of Scott Hansen. His blog, ISO50, featured unconventional art and photography, regular music posts, case studies of design in consumer products and publications, and a consistent and inspiring thread of fulfillment. Scott Hansen doesn’t just observe art, it is an extension of him.

For this young artist, his moniker, “Tycho” and the art that stems there-from, are as much a part of him as his right hand. The beauty he perceives in the world is as much a confirmation of his character as it is a satisfaction of his tastes. When he looks at a sunset, treated in a vintage filter and blurred to a dreamy state, this is how he views the world; that same calm that he experiences becomes him.

Art has a tendency to do this to people. Like Cameron in the Chicago History Museum, works of creativity have a way of staring into us, picking out a trait within us that we may be afraid to confront, proud to promote, or unaware of entirely. This knowledge of ourselves grows and makes us more confident, stretching into our engagements with others, manifesting as compassion, connection, and wisdom.

And when we see these displays in gaudy frames in an art museum, we begin to see their fingerprints everywhere. An especially beautiful picture of a sunset in Maui causes us to see our sunsets for their colors and meaning. A song about a subway station causes us to hear the sounds of the train tracks and ramblings of doomsday preachers in a different way. Our life becomes fuller, more meaningful, acting like a foley artist in a film, which brings to the forefront all of the things we would otherwise ignore.

I am more a believer now that I have ever been that the fourth human necessity, aside from water, food, and oxygen is beauty. The significance of our existence, our relationships, and our actions knows only chemical bonds and the passage of time without the inherent quality of beauty. Looked at subjectively, we are slaves to perception. Looked at objectively, we are little more than molecules. But looked at in conjunction, both through the lens of the human eye and within the rules of our physical world, ideas and transactions become meaningful, giving us purpose and peace.

Say what you will about Chinese math scores and the brain drain of the US economy. Without purpose, our calculations have no meaning. Beauty is as essential to our existence as the flesh of our bodies and, regardless of your artistic talent, you too are capable of both creating it and appreciating it in a way that will change the course of your life, right this very moment.


I Am Rubber and What the Hell Are You

Each day we enter some kind of social interaction (unless you live in the forest in which case the red-backed deer-tick does not count). In the course of that interaction we form opinions about the other person based on their behavior, courtesy, responses to questions, and personality. Often times these perceptions are based largely on assumptions, a way for our mind to fill in the blanks when we possess incomplete information.

I’d like to challenge you to buck assumptions.

It’s difficult, it really is. Assumptions save us brain-power and are an adaptation that allows us to make decisions without full information when survival is necessary. But outside of the damn jungle, their use is questionable. A rude checker may be a jerk, or he may be having a bad day. What does this assumption get us? A lack of compassion for our fellow man.

Further more, I’d like to present you with a thought:

Perception is a mirror. Truth is a window.

More often than not, our perceptions and assumptions about others are reflections of the same toward ourselves. Conversation and intimate knowledge of another leads us to the truth of their character and circumstances, while our judgments reflect on our experiences and beliefs, filtering truth into a different color.

This can be a powerful tool, observing our assumptions and understanding them so as to better comprehend how we feel about ourselves, but we’ll tackle that another time. Today, let’s start the day off fresh. Shirk your assumptions and listen. Allow yourself to be surprised and question whether your judgments are based on facts. The worst that can happen? You become a better listener, even for 24 hours. That’s nothing to balk at.


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The world is kind to those who don't "give a fuck".
Habits, Philosophies

Be Yo’ Self

“When I became a man I put away childish things, including the fear of childishness and the desire to be very grown up.” – C. S. Lewis

I’ve quoted this before. It’s re-emphasis is not without purpose. You see, I’ve known many incredible people in my lifetime, and what continues to strike me is the frequency with which they insist that they were, at one point, “too embarrassed” to look silly.

It’s a poignant remark in my eyes because (and this is not bragging), the idea of looking silly is one that has not entered my mind in probably a decade. The concept that anyone would be embarassed by who they are, afraid to express their thoughts or personality is mind-boggling. We are who we are in the same way that a pear is a pear or a tree is a tree, nothing can change that.

So truly what requires more effort? Being yourself in the face of possible ridicule, or maintaining an unnecessary and futile facade? How much energy are you wasting a day being someone else when you could be the beautiful, powerful you?

Think about it.


What do you think? Are you You or are you trying to be Someone Else? Join the conversation on Twitter and Facebook.

And you look good doing it.
Habits, How-To

Read Dammit


No fancy lead-in, no great anecdote, just do it. Reading is not only intellectually stimulating, but entertaining and extremely calming.

Here are a few tips to get you started:

1. Pick a topic you are interested in

I love philosophy. Whether I get it or not, I enjoy how cereberal the entire experience of reading philosophy is. Some of us like cooking, some of us like computers, some of us like history. Regardless of what you like, pick it and delve into it. There are literally thousands of books on every topic known to man and the added bonus of your interest will make the habit more rewarding and easier to establish. Do what you love!

2. Start small

Rome wasn’t built in a day. Furthermore, no one likes staring at a 500 foot tall mountain and thinking “I have to climb that?” So give yourself a break when you’re first getting started and  (after choosing something you like) pick something you feel comfortable with! Picking up a 700 page novel can be an exhilirating challenge but if you aren’t in the habit already, start with something you can finish to give yourself the ever-rewarding dopamine prize of an accomplishment.

3. Have fun

Yes, it’s a cliché but it’s also true. If you aren’t enjoying what you’re doing, then why are you doing it? Being open-minded is important, as is having the discipline to keep working on a rewarding book, but if you aren’t deriving pleasure from your liesure activities, then there really isn’t much point in doing them.

It’s a new year, read a book. It’s no secret formula or hidden ingredient to success (or is it?), but I promise, you’ll thank me.