Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Experiencing Beauty

There is so much beauty around us, but many of us often fail to notice it. So, we complain about the dreary sky on a cold snowy day, but then fail to look up and notice the beauty of the blue sky on a sunny day. We turn away from a pile of garbage lying in a corner, but we don't turn around to take a closer look at a blooming tree that we just passed. Fortunately, it doesn't take much to notice beauty, because it's all around us. We just need to be mindful enough to notice. But when we do notice beauty, it has an instantaneous positive effect on us. We feel great, we feel energized, we feel happy.

I have several friends who are very mindful of their surroundings. I admire these friends. They inspire me to be more mindful and appreciate the beauty around me. One of them is a young professor at Indiana University who has a special fascination for blue skies. Several times while walking with him, I have noticed him admiring the blueness of the sky. When I asked him why is he so enamored by the sky, he explained that he grew up in an industrialized town in China where there was lot of smoke and pollution. So blue skies look extraordinarily beautiful to him. I have another friend who loves her surroundings so much that she often walks around with an Olympus camera from the 1970s, and takes pictures of anything beautiful that catches her attention. I have wondered why does she have to use a reel camera that is around 40 years old. Why does she not use the super-powerful modern digital cameras? Then I realized that she was not just fascinated with the beauty of her surroundings. She was also in love with the beauty and power of her super-old camera.

Artists, poets and ascetics are paragons of appreciation of beauty. But we don't have to be either to derive great pleasure in what we see. The friends that I mentioned earlier were neither avant-garde connoisseurs nor enlightened sages. They were just regular folks who somehow succeeded in spotting beauty when they came across it. I don't know how they do it, but I have certainly noticed a lot of enthusiasm in them towards life. So, I like to visualize myself as a small kid who is in absolute awe of the world. This helps me stay open to enjoy the aesthetic opportunities around me. I also try to emulate the excitement of my dog (or more accurately, my friend's dog) when she goes out. It's an absolute pleasure to take a dog out, because she gets super-thrilled when you do; then some of that animated energy rubs off on you as well. Earlier, I used to take pictures of my surroundings using my cellphone. Recently, I also bought a small pocket-camera that I often carry around to capture any beauty that I spot. The pictures that I get are, of course, of no professional quality, but they help me rejoice in the fact that I noticed and appreciated the beauty of my environment.

A few random pictures taken over the last month