The Spirituality of Aesthetics

The world lives and breathes, and we can draw its spirit into us. – Marsilio Ficino

I must confess I’ve never had much of an interest in aesthetics. I’m all about function. Give me the most efficient setup to what needs to be accomplished done as quick as possible. But recently I’ve discovered that it is precisely this attitude and approach to life which has stifled my spirituality. The most efficient is often not the most beautiful, yet as humans beauty is what we crave the most. Now, I’m not talking about making ourselves into something which we, or other people, might regard as beautiful… in fact, let’s forget about the beauty, or lack of, found in ourselves and others for the time being to concentrate upon the beauty of our environment, that is, the places we work, eat, sleep, and play.

Ok, let me ask: Why do people place pictures of their loved ones on their work desks? I suspect, they do this to bring a little bit of spirit into their sterile working environment. Perhaps in addition to the picture(s) there’s also some artwork on the wall, a pot plant, a terrarium, or aquarium. But why? Don’t all these things make a workspace less efficient?

Maybe… I really don’t know.

But the quest for efficiency at all costs has led us to forget that our environment “breathes, and we can draw its spirit into us.” If we sacrifice beauty and aesthetics for the sake of productivity, what will be the cost borne by our spirituality? There is something about a boring, sterile office cubicle that seems to sap energy from us. On the hand, a lot of people seem to find a small oasis from the monotonous cubicle, in the form of pictures, artwork, terrariums, and aquariums, helpful for cultivating joy in an otherwise boring environment. Such oases invite one to be present even in the most mind-numbing of tasks.

The take home message for me is to be mindful of my environment because I now know that the aesthetics of my surroundings will either sustain or kill me.

Is my environment beautiful or drab?

Is my environment vibrant or lifeless?

Is my environment an oasis or a desert?

In response to this revelation, I have recently made some changes to my office to improve its aesthetics. Perhaps you could also benefit by bringing more beauty and life into your environment.

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