The more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible

wild grapevine tendril
wild grapevine tendril

Thank you jim for introducing me to Gaia’s Peace Garden which led me to Charles Eisenstein’s Sacred Economics which can be read for free online.

When I drive through American suburbia with its fast food restaurants, enormous boxy stores, and cookie-cutter subdivisions, or look upon the architecture of modern office buildings and residential high-rises, I cannot help but marvel at the ugliness of it all. Compared to the charm and the intense vitality that imbues older objects and structures, ours is a deeply impoverished world. I marvel, with indignation bordering on outrage, that we can live in such an ugly world after thousands of years of advances in material technology. Are we really so poor that we can afford no better? What was the point of this sacrifice, all this destruction, if we are poorer in the finer things of life, the beautiful and the unique, than a Medieval peasant was? Looking at the artefacts of bygone times, I am impressed by their vibrancy, the intense quality of life within them. Today, almost everything we use, even if it is expensive, is cheap, reeking of phoniness, indifference, and salesmanship.

Mystery solved. Now I understand why I always get car-sick when I travel any distance along the I-35 corridor. It isn’t motion sickness at all — it is a message from my soul.

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28 thoughts on “The more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible

  1. So sadly true. I’ve watched soul-less development grow up around me here and cannot believe the people making the decisions think what they are making is acceptable. From Village Boards to developers… I used to go to meetings and try to speak up about it, but got discouraged. My message was most certainly not welcomed!

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  2. When I read this I thought of the Cold War era buildings I saw years ago when I visited Poland, which was controlled by the USSR until it finally achieved autonomy. Talk about soul-crushing architecture. Dull gray cement block construction, no facades, no brickwork, nothing.

    I do admire the older architecture here with carved stone and wood, seems everything is based today on cost and efficiency, less on beauty. There are a few artisans that endeavor to create artful construction, but sadly the emphasis is on ‘few’ and only the wealthy can afford their services.

    The best places are those that have the foresight to set aside land for public parks for the benefit of the souls who live there.

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    1. One of the main ideas in Eisenstein’s book is ‘value.’ We pretend to be efficient but we really aren’t. We are just deferring the true cost onto the future. All those flimsy toxic structures can’t last. They inevitably will be torn down and replaced with … more toxic and flimsy structures? And all that cement poured to link those strip malls are just a big part of the problem. Urban sprawl was just such a bad idea. Our money and effort could be used more intelligently and put into beautiful places for people to live beautifully — if we really wanted that to happen — if that was what we truly valued.

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  3. indeed !!! I too have recently found charles and am reading the more beautiful world our hearts tell us is possible and loving it…. –
    the ugliness is soul destroying and also like a previous comment we can find a beauty in the ugly – this is a practice I attempt and often I will fail. I think of that “look on the bright side of life” song. and while on an artistic level one can find beauty in the horror (sometimes) on the level of soul or spirit it does seem to lack nourishment or depth as if at some deep innate level we know that it is a mockery an imitation and not the real thing.
    as much as possible I get off the highway and meander… as much as possible I stay out of the mall and find a market… as much as possible I feed my heart the forest the ocean the river and the creatures holding them in store for those times when the plastic facades and blockhouse modernisations come into view.
    sandra

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    1. That impulse to find beauty in ugly situations has two edges. On the one hand we kind of have to do that to stay sane but yet … it also kind of freezes us into inaction. Sometimes anger is a pure and reasonable response.

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  4. Hi Debra. I have a conflicted answer to this one. Living in the Garden State, I am especially cognizant about what happens when modern society rapes and destroys land and everything living on it for purposes of economic progress. NJ is the most densely populated state in the US and it has suffered under the white man for a very long time. Industry and the US military has dumped more toxins into the ground and water table then is imaginable. As a result, there are places that I drive through or visit that either feel dead or worse. On the other hand, and I am sure that I am going to be in the minority on this concept, there is a sublime beauty in ugliness. Joe Campbell wrote about this in “The Power of Myth”: “There’s another emotion associated with art, which is not of the beautiful but of the sublime. What we call monsters can be experienced as sublime. They represent powers too vast for the normal forms of life to contain them. An immense expanse of space is sublime. The Buddhists know how to achive this effect in situating their temples, which are often up on high hills. For example, some of the temple gardens in Japan are designed so that you will first be experiencing close-in, intimate arrangements. Meanwhile, you’re climbing, until suddenly you break past a screen and an expanse of horizon opens out, and somehow, with this diminishment of your own ego, your consciousness expands to an experience of the sublime.”
    The crowded cities and towns of NJ are banal, lifeless, discarded, dirty and forgotten. It is a constant attack on one’s aesthetic. They drain you of spirit and optimism. And yet, if viewed a certain way, they hold a certain sublime beauty. I guess the same way that we enjoy seeing pictures of the ugly beauty of any decaying place (e.g. inner city Detroit). Or perhaps, I have just lived in NJ for too long.

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    1. For me I think there is a big difference between the wabi-sabi kind of decay found in a desolate marsh or crumbling ruin than in the waste of cities coated in toxic plastics and concrete. All I see is the waste land of Eliot — something way beyond redemption.

      Sublime is an interesting word to use. I suppose I could think of these stretches of endless strip malls as sublime — but only in its original meaning. These places do fill me with a kind of awe and terror — I do think that if I 35 isn’t hell then it makes an excellent representation of evil.

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  5. People forget how absolutely audacious and prescient Ladybird Johnson was with her highway beautification wildflower seeding programs when she first introduced them. Hers was a lone voice and she was consistently mocked for championing native plants as an elegantly useful option for medians and shoulders. Efficiency ruled back in those days, and any notion that commerce and beauty could much less would co-exist was written off as frivolous if not nonsensical.

    (Am I the only one who heard “Big Yellow Taxi” playing in my head as I read this?)

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  6. It is one of the reasons we often avoid interstates and take the blue highways. There is so much more to see and it is closer. You can stop and go touch and smell and be with it.

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