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What I find beautiful and joyous about the world and humanity

From the big to the small, the otherworldly to the mundane, the well-known to the unknown.


The modern world is an ugly, ugly place. The architecture, the people, the way we live and go about arranging ourselves is largely devoid of love, beauty and joy. Small wonder everyone is so bloody miserable.  


I know, I’ve started this off with talking about how bereft of beauty the world is – and how I see it as such – instead of what I find to be beautiful about it. Ironic, no? Sometimes we must acknowledge the opposite before getting to the point we aim to discuss.


Keeping in the spirit of my three themes for this year – specific, challenge, personal – I find it very easy to view the world in a disparaging manner, so this article will require me to dig deep to overcome the instinct. These examples will be highly individualised and personal to me, so, hopefully I can convey the emotional connection well enough to be understood, but I know it will be a challenge.  


While a number of my examples may seem general, universal or enjoyed by many such as reading a book at a local café, travelling, looking at old buildings or taking a walk through nature, the experience is world’s apart. As strange as this sounds, we don’t just see with our eyes. There is a lot of other sense data plus if you believe we have spirits/souls (which I think is largely self-evident and we certainly treat people as if we do) then seeing and experiencing are multifaceted phenomena whose totality is probably beyond our comprehension. However, I wasn’t going to make this into an abstract discussion so I digress.


Image courtesy of Martyn Foster.

There’s a certain “magic” that happens to me occasionally when I’m reading a book at café, and maybe magic isn’t quite the right word, perhaps it’s alignment. It doesn’t happen all the time and certainly not for any extended duration. There also seems to be a plethora of arbitrary factors involved from café location and busyness to the type of coffee I’m drinking, along with less random elements like the book I’m reading and my current mood state. I find it difficult to truly articulate the feeling, but it’s like I go from viewing something from outside the window to experiencing a seamless oneness where I stop seeing and any separation between me and the world vanishes. It’s a truly beautiful experience, one which I can time travel or paint over existence. As I said previously, I don’t expect people to understand and I’m sure the average person is reading this going it’s time from the straight jacket, Marty!


Another example of this is when I travel (and why I travel). Once again, these moments are fleeting, but are some of the best that life can offer. I love both natural and man-made landscapes which makes gallivanting through Europe a delight for soul. The older architecture creates stirrings in the core of my being that I struggle to reason why. I love Italy in general, but exploring the locations from the early Assassin’s Creed games – whilst listening to the corresponding music from the soundtrack – is about as close to a religious or spiritual experience I’ve had in my life. There may have been many people around, but I was alone, in my own little capsule of world-synchronising experience, grateful for the sunglasses masking the emotions that were too much to keep in. At the top of Campanile di San Marco listening to Jesper Kyd’s “Tour of Venice”, I believe if I nuclear bomb went off I would have died a happy man…however, I’m very glad this wasn’t the case.


I love walking through nature, and here in Australia we have (some of) the best beaches in the world teamed with tremendous weather. I’m more of forest, lake, mountain kind of man, but I’ll take the beach given it’s close proximity to me. Walking along a sparse and pristine beach looking out to the boundless Indian Ocean, it helps to put into perspective one’s significance or lack thereof. While some may not like sand because it’s coarse and rough and irritating and it gets everywhere, the very tactile sense of sand beneath your feet and running between your toes along with a lapping ocean at your ankles, the sound of crashing waves and distinct smell of the sea – it’s beautiful. I feel that something the size of the ocean is needed to contain what goes on in my head and perhaps that’s why it brings me peace.

Image courtesy of Martyn Foster.

I can create conditions to facilitate experiences of beauty or joy, but I can’t force it nor feel entitled to it, and I feel it’s best to just let it arise if and when it does. Expecting it or doing it as a primary aim decreases the likelihood of it occurring. Allow me to explain further. I may walk along the beach because I enjoy it, but I don’t expect every walk along the beach to be joyous nor the most joyous experience.


I think what drew me to motorcycles more than cars was the sensations it gave and the more solitary experience. I could wax lyrical about “you, the bike, the road” and there is something to that, but it’s a different beauty and joy than that of an awe-inspiring sunrise or sunset. There is a competence/skill facet to it, a mastering of one’s environment, a sense of freedom unfelt in other forms of transport. It keeps you on your toes because if you get it wrong you die, and there’s something exhilarating about being on the edge between life and death. I’m not saying we have to ride like the guys competing at the Isle of Mann, but there is a 10-15km section of road coming down the hill from Nannup into Bridgetown that is just fucking heavenly on a sportbike. Riding that numerous times over the years, it’s just bliss, your focus is laser sharp nailing every apex and undulating rise and dip whilst optimising every gear change and keeping the revs where they need to be and every sense in your body is heightened and alive as if this is the only thing that matters.


I’ve rabbited on for longer than expected so I’ll have to bullet point the rest! The smell of freshly cut grass on a spring/summer’s morning (and yes it has to be morning, the smell is different later in the day). Classical music (especially piano), deep one-on-one discussions (I strongly detest this everything needs to public and for everyone method that has befallen us), genuine cinema and artistic expression (the collective theatre experience hits differently as well), the 2014 San Antonio Spurs and their beautiful game and Ronaldinho (I don’t think I’ve ever seen someone play with as much joy as him). The Olympics are this year too – I love the Olympics, nothing brings the world together like sport and music, it truly unites humanity, giving us a rare chance to share collectively in spirit and success.


Saving the best until last – the most beautiful and joyous thing in the world is seeing my mother smile.

Image courtesy of Martyn Foster.


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