There is big-time creation, the Leonardo Sistine Chapel variety. There is also the decision of how we will decorate the cake today, what shoes we will wear, if we’ll plant some flowers, do our makeup for an outing, mow the lawn in verticals or horizontals to look best. These decisions are not just for our own satisfaction, they are gifts we give to those around us. It is all about caring: for ourselves and the people around us.
Beauty Is Participatory. To Be Part of It Is to Be Vibrantly Alive
Beauty is participatory. We can choose what to look at: the sky or the ground. We are not passive. We have agency in the world. We can decide what we want to focus on, where we decide to place our valuable attention. We can also decide how we want to express beauty in the world. The power to create is within each of us. It is part of being human. I have been thinking a lot about beauty and creativity lately, and how important they are for longevity.
To create in acts large and small is to connect to our vitality. Think of the opposite, the total ceasing of all creating; that sure doesn’t look very healthy to me. As I wrote last week, I grew up in a small rural town with a single mom. But there was a library. We did not have much spare money. My mom would go to the library and we could borrow records to listen to, or copies of famous art to have in the house for a while. Attention to beauty is not limited by resources, it is only limited by desire and imagination.
I find these small touches of attention to beauty to be the most impactful. Sure, if I had billions, wouldn’t it be nice to make a museum? In fact, I would say it would be an obligation to do something similar if one were in those circumstances. But it is the beauty that people put into the small efforts that I find most touching. The way a table is set, the special hat worn only on Easter, the man who spends his Sunday polishing his ’68 Camaro. These are signs of an electric attachment to life, and to the joy it brings.
I find that I rise to the level of the people I surround myself with. When I am around creative, vital, positive people, it rubs off on me. It’s something I forget, something I would like to deny, but I am not self-propelled. All of you help me to raise my level and to raise my gaze to the beauty in the world.