If it's just pretty, what's the point?
In a very spur of the moment decision, I decided to participate in National Poetry Writing Month this April.
My poetry writing has been sporadic at best over the past two years, and I thought this daily creative project would be good for my brain.
But as I began to write these quick poems, it struck me that it’s been quite a while since I’ve created art for the sake of beauty alone—with no other purpose.
Because I don’t have time to craft deep, meaningful messages, most of these daily poems are simply there for whoever wants to pause with me and enjoy a collection of pretty words.
That’s it. You read them, and then they disappear into the hole of the internet.
So what’s the point?
Usually, my first instinct when I create something is to determine how the project could have value or make an impact. Similarly, when I’m wrestling through an issue, one of my first instincts is to put it into some form of art.
So yes, I’m absolutely a supporter of art as a vehicle for change. Art forms can be powerful tools for conveying all kinds of messages, and we’d be limiting their potential if we said they served no other purpose than to be pretty.
But writing these daily poems have also made me realize how focused I’ve become on creating art solely for the sake of fulfilling a certain need or making a certain statement.
I’ve become caught up in the idea that everything I produce needs to have an immediate effect or evident value.
I think our culture has conditioned us to seek results for the work we do, and the faster we see these results, the better.
Creating something that exists for no other purpose than to be beautiful can be considered a waste of time. But if we think like that, then we’re missing something.
There is a reason we’re attracted to beautiful paintings, architecture, music, colours, landscapes, etc. Our tastes may vary, but we’re all born with the ability to appreciate beauty and are naturally drawn towards it.
Our performance-driven culture has taught us to analyze everything to find its hidden symbolism or raison d'être. But in the process, we can lose the precious joy of appreciating something simply because it's beautiful.
These things have value because they give us reason to pause and be thankful amidst a screwed up world.
Beauty gives us hope and encourages us to keep going—reminding us that there are still things on earth worth fighting for.
For instance, Maggie Smith is one of my favourite contemporary poets. One of her poems, titled Sky, exists simply for its beauty. And yet, it does more than that. Her words are a rich tool that can equip us to better appreciate our surroundings.
The value or impact of these examples may not always be clear, but that doesn’t mean we should give up on beauty in favour of something we think will produce tangible results.
God himself created an entire world full of beauty. And while yes, each element fits together like an intricate puzzle—the earth certainly doesn't have to be as remarkably colourful and beautiful as it is in order to function.
And yet, we are inspired to care for and protect it, in part because we want to preserve its beauty.
So to me, creating beauty is a way of echoing God’s good work, and that in itself is a form of praise. That’s why I’m challenging myself—and you, if you care to join me—to create and seek out beauty this month.
These practices are often fun and fulfilling, and a good break from the daily craziness of life. Capturing and creating beauty can be a powerful way of combatting the sorrow and evil we’re surrounded with. It gives us joy, and we can share that joy with others.
This could look like a thousand different things. As I mentioned, I’m writing a poem a day for the month of April. You can follow along on Twitter.
But I know poetry isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, so here are a few more ideas:
- Regularly take pictures of something that strikes you as beautiful. Post them on social media or share them with friends so others can enjoy what you see too.
- Paint/draw or design something every day, just for fun.
- If you're into cooking, perhaps set aside time to try a more elaborate meal, simply because it looks beautiful.
- If you like interior design, splurge on that one small project you've always wanted to do, but haven't done because it served no "purpose."
- Plant some flowers.
Have any other ideas? Feel free to share them! Whatever you find joy in creating, give yourself the freedom to just relax and do it this month, without worrying about whether or not others will perceive its value.
Sometimes, just the fact that it is beautiful is enough.