Tuesday, April 14, 2009

What does it mean to appreciate the unnecessary?

I’m glad you asked. Many of us are pinching pennies during this time of economic struggle. But if we focus solely on what is necessary for our survival, we can become so pre-occupied with satisfying our hungers (and the hungers of our loved ones) that we become weighed down with practicality. I know that when I slip into this “all work and no play” mentality, I become stuck in a downward spiral of anxiety and miss out on much of the beauty that surrounds me.
Remembering to appreciate the unnecessary in life is the way I become unstuck and the way I reopen myself to enjoying life’s little freebies. For example, eating food is a necessary part of living. It satisfies my hunger and fuels my body so I can accomplish the work I need to do. However savoring the flavor of a bite before swallowing is an act of appreciating the unnecessary that elevates my experience of eating by adding enjoyment to my satisfaction.
Other examples of appreciating the unnecessary might include stopping for a second on my way to the car to listen to the birds sing, or waving back to the child in the rear window of the school bus ahead of me in traffic, or inhaling the aroma of a cup of coffee before taking a sip.
Art is all about appreciating the unnecessary in life. Artists are extraordinarily sensitive to the beauty that surrounds them, whether a physical beauty or the beauty of human experience. They see something beautiful, then they try to depict it in such a way that others will experience a heightened connection to that beauty.
Auguste Rodin, one of the greatest sculptors the world has ever seen, depicted the ordinary everyday act of thinking as something beautiful and noble when he created “The Thinker.” When I saw this piece in person, I was struck with awe at the magnificence of a man pondering his thoughts. Yes, this piece of art pointed to a simple truth that I probably already knew, but I had never before given it a conscious thought. As I circled around “The Thinker” in the garden of the Rodin Museum, I remember marveling at how at man’s ability to think and how that really elevated us above all other animals. The longer I gazed at this statue the more clearly I saw the dignity of every human person. That is an example of how an exceptional artist and one of his masterpieces was a catalyst that triggered a life-altering moment for me.
But what about art that we can enjoy everyday, like the pictures that hang on the walls of our home, the knick knacks on our shelves that remind us of special people and events in our lives, the jewelry and accessories we use to complete an outfit, and other ways we enhance our experience of the ordinary.
All of us can use our creativity to help others appreciate the unnecessary by highlighting the lagniappe in life. Maybe it’s as simple as singing songs with the kids on the way to school, or lighting candles so dinner becomes a dining experience, or leaving a “love” note in your spouse’s pocket where they will find it in the middle of their workday. Maybe it’s taking that old but still functional table and giving it a new coat of paint, or making an arrangement of fresh flowers from the garden for the coffee table. And all of us can pay even closer attention to the beauty that already surrounds us. Making a habit of appreciating the unnecessary (the extras) in life can lift us out of survival mode and give us a general sense abundance.
How do you appreciate the unnecessary? Share your answer with us in the comment section below.


  1. Wow Coco what an interesting article! I agree with you that artists are very sensitive to the awe inspiring beauty surrounding us everywhere.

    I suppose I began celebrating the unnecessary when as a toddler I would fill my little trouser pockets with pretties that pleased me and caught my eye. Those small treasures from nature's bounty apparently created all sorts of clunking and smashing in my mom's old washing machine -- which definitely did NOT please HER!!!

    But the many chunks of rock, mineral specimens and weird crystals I've brought home from my travels is likely my greatest tribute to the wonders of creation that we so often take for granted.
    ~Anna Lee

  2. So true! It hit me once while doing a show that art is something no other animal does. Everything they do, even their play, has a serious point to it, usually connected to survival. Humans are the only ones who create art. It's a very important part of who we are.