I was struck by a recent article in The Week by Pascal-Emmanuel Gobry titled “Steve Jobs And the Modern Hunger for Beauty.” With the anniversary of Steve Jobs’s death and the recent release of another movie about his life, Gobry takes a look at Jobs’s passion for beauty and our willingness, no hunger, to follow suit. Gobry artfully takes us through time and explains the changing views of beauty from something spiritual to scientific to political to commercial.
What is most disturbing is not that we no longer have an appreciation for beauty or that we are not fulfilling it, but HOW we are fulfilling it. As he writes, “the pressures of free market capitalism create a world which has room only for brute efficiencies — we used to build cathedrals, now we build megamalls.” Are we OK with that? Of course I appreciate any and all forms of beauty — from computers to office parks. But what about beauty for its own sake, not as a way to enhance a functional space or a tool but as an experience all on its own?
Some could argue that we don’t have the time to appreciate or that we don’t live in a culture that values beauty on its own terms. For example, we aren’t going to cathedrals or hanging around museums nearly as much as we used to so why not invest beauty into our everyday things? I get it. After all, trying to drag my kids to a museum is as likely as me meeting Matt Damon up on Mars.
The reality is so much of today’s culture is around commerce. If the only ways we can truly appreciate beauty are via today’s everyday cultural spaces and things — malls, office parks, computers and automobiles, then I say let’s take it. Moreover, by integrating beauty with these more accessible and everyday aspects of culture (vs the distant or even intimidating places like cathedrals and museums) we may actually appreciate beauty even more.
Sure, I love those moments when I’m taken out of the everyday bustle of life and struck by something beautiful. I crave moments when I can just revel in it. But if I and my family can get just a taste of it more often and without trying too hard, I say why not!