February 7, 2021
As I recently discussed in my article on getting out of your “hypnotic rhythm” so that you can live more creatively and engage in “less doing” and “more being,” so many of us responsible, achieving adults have sadly lost our connection to dancing, singing, and dreaming.
In the weeks since publishing that article, I've been pondering this problem and have come to a stark realization about a key factor that I think holds so many of us back from being able to creatively create and produce unique and meaningful art— whether that art be an actual painting, a musical composition, a better piece of imaginative writing or literature, a useful invention, computer code for software, or engineering project.
So today, I'll share with you a new way to approach your creative endeavors in a way that allows you to create actual, meaningful, unique, and compelling content that reflects your own inspiration—rather than simply spitting out ideas and inventions that really have no true, distinct uniqueness or individual, personalized idiosyncrasies.
Ingest Beauty To Create Beauty
I'll cut straight to the chase.
You can consider the following to be your mantra of creation…
…you must ingest beauty to create beauty.
I'm going to say it again because it's so incredibly important…
…you must ingest beauty to create beauty.
OK, so what do I mean by this?
The sensory fuel that you consume on a daily basis, meaning specifically that which is in front of your eyes, filling your ears, touching your skin, and saturating your olfactory receptors and taste buds is what you will then turn around and subsequently be able to use as inspirational fodder for creating a work of art, an essay, an invention, a musical composition, or any other form of unique human creation.
This means that if you're constantly bombarding your senses with dry data from news, fitness, nutrition, “biohacking,” political, investing, and economic podcasts and videos…
…sardonically reading purely humdrum non-fiction (because, God forbid, you waste time with the silly stories and fantasy fiction that intrigued and enchanted you so much as a child)…
…never wasting a moment with an epic Hero's Journey-esque action movie because any spare moment in front of a screen should be reserved for the noble means of educating oneself via a stale documentary…
…approaching your diet as an exercise in consuming a precise set of functional foods primarily intended to supply a proper ratio of macro and micronutrients, absent of much thought towards texture, taste, color, plating, mindful preparation, and a savoring of each joyful bite…
…going on long walks (because those are good for you, right?) outfitted with a step counter, calorie tracker, heart rate monitor, and an audiobook piped into a noise-blocking headset that drowns out any birdsong, wind whistle, or crunch of gravel beneath your feet…
…making love, eating food, meditating, exercising, driving, typing, and even sleeping with a steady background hum of either music, or binaural beats, or engineered sounds from a productivity or brain-wave enhancing app…
…and guilt-tripping yourself into feeling quite poorly if every moment is not spent towards some aspect of productive doing and self-improvement…
…then you are going to have none of the ammunition, the dry powder, the inspiration, the sensory experiences, and the creative fodder to be able to create meaningful, inventive, expressive, and imaginative art—whatever that art you are called to create might be.
Yes, you must ingest beauty to create beauty.
In other words, you must experience mindful periods of time during the day in which your taste buds are fully tuned into the crunchy bite and mouth feel of a raw carrot fresh from the garden, your skin receptors are fully able to feel the warm, smooth surface and electrical charge from your loved one or child as they embrace you, the tiny bones in your ears are equipped to resonate and vibrate to the song of a chick-a-dee, a robin, and an overhead hawk all at once, your eyes are allowed to gracefully shift focus from the dazzle and shine of a colorful screen to the distant peak of a mountain to the nearby silhouette of a tree and then back all over again, and the delicate interior lining of your nostrils is able to sense the minty cool of a winter morning, the faint smell of a neighbor's stew heating over the stove and the musty odor of your dog's fur as you stand on your front porch tuned into the wonders of nature, life, and beauty surrounding you.
If it is the opposite for you, then believe me: You are not alone.
From books to audiobooks to radio to podcasts to television to YouTube to documentaries to self-quantified feedback to social media feeds, direct messages, texts, mail, packages, and beyond—most people, on a daily basis, ingest massive amounts of data via an information overload that is now at our continual beck-and-call. Sadly, by the end of the day, the brain is either too fried from processing this constant stream of data or too overloaded with dry, left-brained, educational, productivity, and self-improvement content to be able to—if a process of content creation actually even begins—produce anything save for an unimaginative, same ol'-same ol', echo chamber of existing ideas rather than a unique piece of creation developed from original abstractions and inventive imagination.
Input equals output, my friends. If your input is all non-creative, endless, logical, rational data, and learning, your output will be quite similar.
But, if you are occasionally taking much-need breaks during the day to be instead of do; to close your eyes and savor that bite of pizza rather than mindlessly gnawing on it while hunched over an inbox of emails; to shut off the audio and unplug the wearables and simply walk with the sunshine, birds, and wind; to take in the elegant colors and drama on a movie rather than thumb-tapping your phone through the entire film; to crack open the graphic novel you actually really do want to read, even if it takes you away from the ten self-improvement books waiting on your bookshelf; to deny the FOMO and embrace brief periods of living in the moment…
…then you are going to be able to create meaningful art that is inspired by the beauty of God's creation and human creativity that you have finally given yourself a chance to ingest.
So, ingest beauty.
Look at more art to create meaningful art.
Listen to music that inspires you to create music that inspires others.
Dance like nobody's watching so that you are equipped to better express your feelings.
Take an hour to prepare and enjoy a juicy steak so that you write a better cookbook.
Watch an epic movie to be able to tell your kids a better bedtime story or type a fictional tale of battle.
With the mindset that the weakest athletes most prone to overtraining and injury are those who specialize in a single sport or mode of training, the most nutrient-deficient among us are often those who are the pickiest eaters with the least dietary variety, and the least interesting people to talk to at a cocktail party are often the least well-read and inadequately cultured, venture forth into this world determined to expose your senses to a wide variety of immersive, mindful experiences so that you can then bless others and make the most impact with the unique skillsets you were born with, while—lest I create a readership who spends their entire day golfing, wine-tasting, and watching cartoons—simultaneously using your common sense to avoid frittering away your entire day at mind-numbing or time-wasting activities. In other words, be a maker and a manager, a creator and a consumer, a renaissance person and a talented specialist.
Gift your children and yourself with fiction, with non-fiction, with graphic novels, with poetry, with old classics, with new tales, with classical music, with edgy pop, with a wild electric guitar, with a hippie handpan, with watercolor, with iconography, with documentaries, with epic battle movies, with tiny sushi masterpieces, with massive french-cut, bone-in ribeyes, with pure filtered water, with a fine Bordeaux, and ultimately with diversity of beauty. Then, go forth and create.
Yes, savor the beauty that surrounds you every day. Don't wait until you retire. (Trust me: I've talked to too many old men and women who no longer have the health to go climb a mountain for a day.) Don't wait until you've got just a bit more money in the bank so that you can eliminate the gnawing worry in the back of your head that your beauty-appreciation-time is squandering legacies or destroying wealth accumulation. (Trust me: That feeling never goes away until you simply learn to trust God.) Don't tell yourself you are going to crack open that fiction book you've had shelved for two years just as soon as you finish this one last business title. (Trust me: The non-fiction books will never stop accumulating.) Don't tell yourself that as soon as you finish this one last podcast you're going to shut off the headphones for a while so you can walk in silence (Trust me: The podcasts never stop coming either.)
Rinse, wash, repeat.
Today's essay is, I suppose, in a relative sense, shorter than those I've been recently writing.
But, I'm on an airplane as I write this. And I'm about to do something I've taken quite a bit of pride in not doing in the past. I'm going to write a few final sentences, shut my laptop, and then watch a competitive cooking show without doing anything at all except enjoying my own breath, listening to kitchen chatter and the sound of steak sizzling, and witnessing the creative culinary inventions of a couple of brilliant chefs.
And I guarantee I'll create a more amazing meal tomorrow night because of it.
How about you? How much beauty are you ingesting these days? Why, or why not? Leave your thoughts, comments, and feedback below. I read it all.
17 thoughts on “Sabbath Ramblings: Beauty”
Beautiful post on beauty and what is truly meaningful and lasting in life! I have loved seeing the freedom of thought and expression you are bold enough to share with your followers and the world over the past year. God has been glorified and I know your wife and boys are blessed to have you as a husband and father. My husband and I are approaching our mid 60’s, married at 19! Having a strong, masculine, vibrant, fun, passionate lover, and friend has kept me sane and able to find joy in life over the insanity of the last 12 months. God bless, you and Jessa, the best is yet to come!
I love this – what we consume, in all senses of the word informs who we are.
It’s all about creating balance in life.
Truly relevant. I was out walking this morning concentrating on my splits per kilometre when I looked up and saw a beautiful dawn sky of pink and orange clouds set to the backdrop of the Adelaide (South Australia) hills. If I look back on the walk, that is what I remember, not the podcast, not the huffing, not the voice telling me what my per kilometre time was. The amazing colours on the clouds. My lasting takeaway was the beauty of the dawn.
It was a great start to the day
You are clearly such a super guy Ben, and push very hard to share your energy in the information and pursuit of health in all its facets. But someone who knows very well there is no such thing as god, i find these posts quite trying. You seem way too smart to believe this stuff and i hate to think you are cynical enough to do it because it pulls in a big audience in the strange landscape of the U.S….. I would sit down with you any day and learn everything you have to share otherwise but the religious stuff is so tedious. One day, should i have the financial wherewithal to do it, i will be coming to you for help with my health. And i look forward to the conversation.
You’re entitled to your beliefs, but this is mine. Only a fool would say that it is obvious there is no God. I’m surprised you can be interested in science and make such an assertive statement.
After reading your response to Alan, this is what I thought…call no one a fool. It serves no purpose except to maybe show one’s ignorance.
Kerry my friend, the subject that Ben has brought up makes a pretty compelling case that there actually is a God. In evolution everything gets reduced to its utilitarian function. In other words the only things that evolve are the things that are useful for survival. What is the utilitarian function of a flower? They appear to only be here to make the earth beautiful. Laughter is a uniquely human function for which there is no good evolutionary explanation. The fact that we have it and other species don’t gives us a big clue that we were uniquely designed by a highly intelligent powerful designer – a designer that gave us flowers and taste buds and colors because He loved us and gave us these things for our enjoyment. He also loved us enough to give his son to die for our sins if we can accept his gift.
Here’s a great quote from Pica Della Mirandola on this subject – “After God had created the animals, all the essential roles had been filled, but the divine artificer still longed for some creature which might comprehend the meaning of so vast an achievement, which might be moved with love at its beauty and smitten with all its grandeur. To contemplate and appreciate all the rest, to revere and to hallow, to give mute creation a voice of praise – these were the roles reserved for the species made in Gods image.”
Thanks for a hugely important message especially in this sometimes fanatic, obsessed, and overloaded (with body and mind “hacks”) health community. Seems if we can find balance and flow in life with lots of peace, love, joy, connection and beauty we serve ourselves and everyone around us. If we are each expressions of God, seems there is no better way to honor that than to live our life this way.
Thanks for sharing Ben. I was blessed with a day of hiking with my daughter and son in law and grandson yesterday. It dawned on me as I was heading home how a normal hike for me would have been multiple miles and elevation gain. But how awesome it was to hold my grandsons hand as he tryed walking on the trail. Seeing the excitement in his eyes at the incredible wonders of gods creation. Best 2 mile hike ever. Thanks again brother keep up the good work.
I love this.
I loved your ramblings today! I went for a walk in the snowy woods yesterday and stopped as I heard a woodpecker. He/she was the largest woodpecker I had ever seen and was pecking at the tree so hard, it didn’t even notice me. It was wonderful!!
I will be reading this article over and over again, just as a reminder …
Beautiful! Thank you for this Ben. My next 4 mile trail hike is going to be with my podcast/audio book off! Appreciate you!
Bam! Thats the way!
Ben! Just what I needed with my morning coffee… with all that is going on, i’ve been pushing and pushing to learn more, keep training(hunter jumper professional and triathlete) and keep learning, looking for ways to better myself in “the downtime” and getting frustrated with slow or retarded progress in many areas… funny that the okay to stop pushing is coming from my guru of self improvement- but awesome! Thanks for the heartfelt reminder to be me, enjoy the process and unplug. Pshew! Thank you!
B G Training, Boo Gonzalez
Thank you for the lovely article, Ben. I am moving in that direction as I become more comfortable with the person I am rather than the person I think I should be. I will be 66 next week and I am moving back in time to the things I truly enjoyed as a child because that is where my soul lies. Dancing, just sitting in the grass, using my senses to take in the world around me, spinning in circles in the water, painting or playing with clay and yes, cooking and savoring the flavors without overthinking it. Being the person God meant me to be.
Newly retired, I plan on hiking those mountains!
Now that sounds like a good way to bring in your birthday. ;)