The Aesthetic Dimension of Life: A Few Thoughts

The Aesthetic Dimension of Life: A Few Thoughts

light sparkles on water

Aesthetics have an integrative role which connects us to the whole – the web of relationships which is life. The aesthetic is an open concept that attracts diverse perspectives and eludes any final definition. Yet, it is an essential part of human life, an aspect of our experiences which deepens their potential for meaning.

I think of aesthetics as having to do with the life of the senses, with beauty, and the sublime. It encompasses art but is much more than art. Kant believed that the aesthetic domain offers the promise of reconciliation between Nature and humanity.[1] This potential is realized through feelings and sensory experiences and is shaped further by the mind but is rarely a matter of the mind alone.

One of the central elements of the aesthetic is that it offers autonomy. Each person has the freedom to find and assert what they experience as beautiful, appealing, or powerful in its impact. Free to explore the world and develop our own aesthetic sensibilities, we change ourselves and our world.

Light sparkling on water whiles waves splash on shore never fails to bring me pleasure and deepen the quality of my day. The sights and sounds connect me to a world that humans didn’t create and brings wholeness. The harmony of mind, senses, and spirit which is aesthetic pleasure is at times sublime.

Life has diminished meaning, is almost impossible to sustain, without some of what the aesthetic dimension of life can offer the human soul.

Aesthetic experiences also come from the creative process whether it takes place within the arts or in every day life. The feeling of unity with self and materials that is possible within creative processes means we are fully ourselves in those moments. We can see our ideas materialize and take other forms. Within aesthetic experiences we may understand our selves more fully or feel greater compassion for others. We can express our feelings whether positive or not, happy or hurting. We often gain empowerment in their expression.

with sand and water we create worlds-Photograph © Colleen Watson-Turner

I have just scratched the surface of the positive elements & potential for feeling connected to all of life that the aesthetic dimension can offer. I will be continuing this focus in future posts.

Do you notice when the aesthetic dimension of life enriches your day?

[1] Eagelton’s The Ideology of the Aesthetic (1990/1995) discusses this idea and Kant’s aesthetic philosophy in detail.

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