Friday, April 13, 2012

getting out of a funk

To get out of a funk (supposing you admit to yourself you want to get out of it), try seeking out beauty.

Of course, everything depends on how we define our terms here. In this context "beauty" and "beautiful" refer not merely to things that are immediately pleasing to the eye, though those things might still count.

Instead, here, when you experience something beautiful you are simply looking (listening, tasting, etc.) on with awe and appreciation but have no sense of judgement. The classic example is a beautiful sunset. When you are looking out over a scene and there is this gorgeous sunset going on, and you're just watching thinking "woah!", you are not doing a few other things. First, for that moment you're not troubled by whatever dramas were cycling in your head immediately before. Second, you're not nit-picking. You're not saying "yeah, this is a nice view, but it would be better if that one cloud on the left were higher up." The moment you do that is the moment the beauty ceases to grab you (by the definition I use).

If you can find something beautiful to experience, it will deal a huge blow to your funk! And not just for the small bit of time you're staring at the sky colors.

The trick, though, is that there is beauty to be found in pretty much everything. When some people say that God is in everything, I can agree with them so far as I replace "God" with "beauty" in my mind -- the feeling of perceiving it is somewhat transcendent, and it's probably the closest thing I've had to a religious experience.

Sometimes, like with our sunset above, the beauty reaches out and throttles us into awe. Mostly, though, we have to know or learn how to perceive it. It's like a "filter" on perception, almost. Like how people write about "looking on the world with angry eyes" or whatever, and their whole interpretation of pretty much everything changes. Or when you've just received some fantastic news, or some terrible news, your brain can "spin" everything, like an amazing PR team. Some people seem to have their "bitter" filter stuck on. Others somehow manage to link everything to a few pet theories they have.

So, beauty is another filter. It might take a small bit of practice to get familiar with it. But, since it literally is possible to perceive beauty in every single object, moment, aspect, scent, song, spilled glass of wine, and ceiling stain, you won't need to travel to do this.

What are you looking for? It can be hard to describe the sensation of feeling beauty, but we've all had it. Next time you are grabbed by a poem or a song or a taste or a city skyline, try to lock in what the experience was like.

When you are in a funk, bring back that filter and apply it to something. Voilà!

OK -- some clarifications

Q: Doesn't the act of labeling something as beautiful go counter to the goal?
A: Yes, sort of. The whole thing here is about taking something -- anything -- and accepting it in a non-judgmental way, and being swayed by its intrinsic majesty. We are not saying "this sunset is good" or "I like this pothole". You don't have to like the pothole. That's a totally different sort of filter, the "some things I like and they are good, some things I don't like and they are bad" filter. Here, we are accepting the pothole and having this almost poignant appreciation for it.

Q: Isn't deliberately applying filters to your experiences, even a "beauty" filter, contrary to everything?
A: For all other filters, yes. I think we should be striving to see the world with naked eyes, as it were (and hearing with naked ears, etc.). The secret here is, the beauty filter isn't a filter at all. I would say that the naked perception is the one that leads us to experience beauty. Calling this a filter is counter-productive for someone more advanced, but for the 99% of us who just naturally have terrible control over our silly minds, thinking of it as a filter makes it easier to conceptualize.

Q: Is finding something to be ugly, the converse of beauty, going to totally destroy my shot at a good mood?
A: It's possible. Go try it really quick. Go think of something ugly (like some "terrible" person who wronged you lately). How do you feel now? Do you have a happy filter on?

Not so great, huh. You probably didn't even notice your surroundings as much just then, so caught up in your perceived ugliness.

In the conventional sense of ugly (i.e., not pleasing to the senses), there is still a beauty to be found. I'm sure you've seen pictures of someone who is the farthest thing from classically handsome/pretty, yet his or her face possess something inspiring anyway.

Beauty really is basically everywhere. Enjoy it! :D

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