Saturday, September 3, 2011

James Hillman on Beauty

Here's something from that innovative and opinionated psychologist James Hillman:

"That the world is loveless results directly from the repression of beauty, its beauty and our sensitivity to beauty. For love to return to the world, beauty must first return, else we love the world only as a moral duty: Clean it up, preserve its nature, exploit it less. If love depends on beauty, then beauty comes first, a priority that accords with pagan philosophy rather than Christian. Beauty before love also accords with the all-too-human experience of being driven to love by the allure of beauty" (from "The Practice of Beauty" in Uncontrollable Beauty, ed. Bill Beckley, with David Shapiro).

Hillman goes on to say that what's really repressed in psychology today is not violence, not misogyny, not child abuse: it's beauty and the acceptance of how important beauty is to the well-being of people. Perhaps there wouldn't be so much absenteeism at work, he suggests, perhaps the attention span of school students would improve, if people could spend time in places that were lovely and cared for rather than sterile and ugly.

It's a great essay, worth buying the book for, although there are a lot of other interesting pieces in this collection as well.

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

A Brief Respite from (Electric) Power

I arrived home late Monday night after leading a workshop in Puget Sound, Washington, to discover that Hurricane Irene had knocked out the power in our rural community. Yesterday morning I was able to work on my laptop until the battery ran down, then my husband and I drove to Scranton, 35 miles away, and spent a few hours in a coffee shop, recharging our electronics and catching up on email.

We then bought some bags of ice and went home to move the food from the refrigerator into coolers. Even though practically everything on my to-do list involves the internet or the computer, I was looking forward to cooking dinner on the gas stove, then spending the evening reading by kerosene lamp. In late afternoon, however, the power came back on.

What, I wondered, would we as a culture do if the internet really went haywire? Forget the monumental problems that banks, airlines, governments would have keeping their systems running. How would we behave as individuals? I like to think that, despite the shock and initial inconvenience, we’d take some pleasure in the new reality. In the evening people might haul out old board games to play. Couples might sit in front of the fireplace holding hands and talking. Parents might tell stories to their children. Students on college campuses might once again exchange ideas in the student union instead of sitting in isolation over their smart phones. When the power was eventually restored, we would all be relieved. But perhaps we would also feel a tug of regret, as I did yesterday, that something creative, quiet, intimate, and sweet that had briefly touched our lives had now been snatched away.