i walked around florence this evening, and it reminded me how wonderful it is to be surrounded by beauty. the cobblestone roads, the statues and art, the Medici era buildings and their red rooftops, the river Arno, the replica of David and his magnificent ass.
as humans we have a natural desire for beauty, like we have a natural desire for social connection. we crave it, we cling to it. in excess it destroys but in moderation imo it's the mark of a life well lived.
really rishi? is that true? is beauty good for us? anecdotally i believe so.
i think to moments where i stopped to appreciate a sunset, a skyline, a statue. these objects of beauty put me made me forget about myself and my problems, and put me in a state of awe and calm.
beauty can make us think less about ourselves for a second, and let the object of our awe take center stage. and if i've learned anything from Buddhism, it's that a lot of our suffering comes from making ourselves the center of the universe. anything that can take our attention away from ourselves is good in my book.
i'm also reminded of how zen gardens are cultivated to make space for you to think about life, and meditate. there's certainly a role for beauty in Buddhist tradition.
i will say that i've been hesitant to seek out beauty in my life, since for me, i have so many narratives/judgments around beauty that corrupt my enjoyment of it.
- i see a beautiful object and want to own it.
- i consume a beautiful piece of art, i enjoy it at first, but then i want to produce such a work myself, and my ego gets wrapped up in it.
- i appreciate beauty viscerally for a moment, but then i get caught up in describing it and analyzing it.
- i walk into a friend's gorgeous apartment, and appreciate it for a second, but get sucked into wanting to keep up with the Joneses.
- i see an incredible outfit and instead of just appreciating it and moving on, i start thinking how i too can be that fashionable and attractive.
- i see myself in the mirror and admire myself, but worry what i'm admiring will fade with age.
my mind is sick lol. the gist of it is that beauty and appreciating beauty is good. but the thoughts, judgments, narratives that surround it prevent us from enjoying it.
i want to bring more beauty into my life. i want to work on identifying and savoring beauty. and i also want to work on letting go of the narratives that keep me from enjoying beauty.
finally, to end with something only tangentially related, there was an opera singer on the streets of Florence today that gave a beautiful performance. he ended saying with words that struck me:
"Enjoy Florence. Enjoy Italy. And most importantly, enjoy your life."