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On Beauty

I spent much of my time as an undergraduate studying beauty.  While not as practical as my mothers’ degree in Pharmacy, nor my sisters’ degree in Biology, I chose to study English and the Arts.  Departing from the consistency of my left-brained family, I choose to fill Sunrise Spot with hard-working, one-of-a-kind, soul-seeking beauty.

Forgive me for borrowing heavily from Edgar Allan Poe here, but I place a great importance on the belief that beauty should create a feeling of “intense and pure elevation of the soul”.  In my journey toward transforming my life to a more purpose-driven and simplistic fashion, I have three initial points from which to consider an addition to the precious little space in Sunrise Spot.  These three points are 1) does it do work, 2) is it charming, and 3) is it unique to my space.  These are the three provinces in which an object must agree with in order to find itself at home in my space.  I agree with Poe here, in the belief that beauty creates an emotional response in its viewer.

Molly Bawn, the novel published in 1878 written by Irish writer Margaret Wolfe Hungerford, is the origin of phrase “beauty is in the eye of the beholder”.  As a student of art I have seen first-hand that there are details and abstractions in which each of us engage with, and there are details and abstractions that we subconsciously disregard.  My taste may greatly differ from your own, but I find that simple, unbusy objects and decor appeal more to me than Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper or even Vincent Van Gogh’s Starry Night.

When Sawyer and I first moved into Sunrise Spot together, I was mystified by what he saw in his tatty old French press.  The press was old and the glass was slightly fogged with age and use.  It was well-loved, that was certain.  But what did he see in it that I couldn’t for such a long time?  The answer to the riddle was this: the beauty of a simplistic, hard-working object.  IMG_5857

A simple glass cylinder with black metal plunger may not – in your opinion – be deemed as beauty, but now that we have tested both objects: the French press and the brewer equipped with an automatic timer and a plug, the French press inevitably won in both the beauty and simplicity categories.

No, his coffee isn’t pre-made for him when he gets up at 6 in the morning.  But just as I have my morning ritual of reading the Oxford English Dictionary’s Word of the Day over a cup of tea, Sawyer has his ritual with his French press.  It is beautiful because it works hard, is simple – not overwhelming like the automatic brewer with its many different buttons, flashing lights, and shrill beeps – and its glass, after a good cleaning with soap and water, sparkles in the morning sunlight.

Sawyer and his French press were just two of the reasons why I’ve chosen to live a more simple, sustainable, and purposeful lifestyle.  Not only do simple items such as a French press look more picturesque and beautiful in our home, but the simpler items are often much more hard-working.
They break down slower, they get the job done just as well – if not better – than their high-tech counterparts, and they look – to me – much more charming than a pile of wires and plugs all confined to one space due to length restrictions.

While living a simpler life may mean that more of an effort needs to be put into everyday tasks such as using and maintaining a clean, beautiful French press instead of pushing a button on the newest coffee brewer model – I have found that there is a beauty in routine.  I find myself looking forward to my morning ritual of tea and the Word of the Day instead of dreading when the clock hits 7:30.  I take pride in the small things I do to keep Sunrise Spot looking its best and most beautiful self, even mopping the old linoleum kitchen floor, sweeping cat hair off the living room floor, or cleaning behind the ancient toilet.

My parents would be disappointed to think that the time and money that went into my study of art in college has only been muted by moving into an apartment, but I don’t believe that.  Instead, I believe that the experience of simplifying my life and living with purpose has provided fresh eyes to what beauty is around me.  Thus, beauty – I believe – is found in all the small, hard-working things that come together to make Sunrise Spot it’s most lovely.

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