Have you ever stumbled upon something beautiful in a shop and your heart ached for it? Maybe it was an item of clothing, a dining room table, an old book, a cushion, or a tiny treasure from an antique shop. Maybe it was something that you wanted to hang on your wall and stare at every day. Did you talk yourself out of buying it because the price tag was too high or maybe because it just seemed frivolous?
I have. And don’t get me wrong, budgeting and being intentional with how you spend your money is SO. WISE. Maybe your bank account said that you really shouldn’t have bought the thing. That’s fair. But I know that there have definitely been times where I could afford something-- maybe because it was small-- and yet chose not to buy it because beauty seemed indulgent.
But I ache for beauty sometimes, and it’s a curious thing. Because I’m also listening to the news about how school budgets are being cut for arts programs in exchange for more science funding.
One of my uni students literally handed in an assignment the other day which argued that art students are not learning anything that is “useful” to society. I had to calm myself and take a deep breath to objectively grade her work.
And maybe she’s right. Maybe art and beauty isn’t of practical use in comparison to the medical breakthroughs of science. Maybe beauty is frivolous. Maybe, in the grand scheme of things, it isn’t necessary in order to live.
But what if it is?
What if practicality works on a spectrum? What if the child in the hospital bed finds joy and peace in the music that the nurses play while they administer his medication? What if the estranged mother and daughter find common ground to build a relationship on their shared love of colour and decorating? What if the lonely teenager finds solace and community in a book about a boy wizard under the stairs?
Why is it impractical to indulge in the art and beauty that our souls so clearly ache for?
I think C.S. Lewis said it best in his essay, The Weight of Glory:
“We want so much more-- something the books on aesthetics take little notice of. But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want to merely SEE beauty, though, God knows, that is bounty enough. We want something else which can hardly be put into words-- to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”
I’m a believer of the Bible scriptures, and you may not share my faith (which is totally okay), but one of the things that always stuns me about the book of Genesis is that God, in His work as a creative, made beautiful things-- the rocks and mountains and deep oceans-- and He said that “it was GOOD.” Then, He made humanity in His image and said that we were GOOD. All of these things, they didn’t HAVE to exist on a practical level. Landscapes didn’t have to be staggeringly beautiful in order to function. Humanity did not need to be beautifully diverse in order to exist. And yet, the beauty was hard-wired from the Creative soul who made it and said that it was GOOD. Then He made us in His image, which means that we too would look at beautiful things and say: “this is good.”
Whatever it is that you believe, I’m so sure that your artistic heart is familiar with that ache for beauty. And that ache? It is GOOD.
So why am I talking about this? What does it have to do with the Instagram aesthetics I've been waffling on about? See, I think we get so caught up in the game. The numbers. The followers. The sponsors. The product promotion. And we forget that at its core, Instagram grew as a space to satisfy the ache for beauty.
An aesthetic, by definition, means “concerned with the appreciation of beauty.”
And when I talk about aesthetics, it’s not to pressure you to play the game. You don’t need an aesthetic to sell your product or grow your following. It’s something much deeper than that. An aesthetic is the framework that helps you to get back to the ache in the roots of your soul: that appreciation for beauty. That indulgence to admire the beautiful thing by photographing it with your camera-- because it is PRACTICAL to let your heart soak it in. It is PRACTICAL to appreciate the little things in life purely because they exist to be appreciated. And it is PRACTICAL to share those things on your Instagram because you are ALLOWED to be concerned with the appreciation of beauty.
If you want to embrace that ache in your bones, click here. My Instagram Aesthetic Method might help. And even if it doesn't, I'll still be here to tell you that you should never stop searching for beauty. Whether it's free or with a price tag, beauty IS worth our time, and you are so so worthy of enjoying it.