beauty, flow and mystery


“The distinction of an aesthetic experience takes place, then, as a reflexive commentary that we make on the harmony of our living in the world that we live, associated to the feeling of broad connectedness in that world, in a flow of living without contradictions that invites to a moment of pause. Moreover, the harmony with the world that one brings about in living has both external and internal dimensions that are lived as broad external and internal harmonies in the dynamics of living in all the dimensions of that world as a psychic space. I shall call the well being that we may distinguish associated with living m that external and internal harmony, natural well being. The well being proper to the aesthetic experience is part of this natural well being. Indeed, I think that a human life lived in the natural well being as I have defined it, is a human life lived in total aesthetics in the many dimensions of living.”

Maturana, H. M.  1993 Biology of the Aesthetic Experience
Zeichen (Theorie) in der Praxis  ed. von Michael Titzmann,
Wissenschaftsverlag Rothe


Much has been written about beauty, or that which we experience as beautiful.  We all know this experience, yet it is elusive of distinction. 

There are abundant theories about what is beautiful in people, nature or art, or even whether art is or should have some dimension of beauty.  I have seen less about how it is that we humans live, enjoy, and desire the experience of beauty.  How is it that we are the kind of beings that can experience beauty?  

And then, we also distinguish the experience, as we also like to know that we are in a community of others who also have such experiences. In these conversations we usually refer to that which has triggered as our experience as if it were beautiful, in itself.  At the same time, we do know it is about us as we acknowledge that “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”

The fact that what we enjoy as natural beauty is precisely the comfortable coherence with each other that living beings exhibit when their conditions of existence have not been disturbed, shows that we pertain to the same constitutive domain of biological congruence  as they do, as is to be expected since we are members of the same biosphere. I consider that the natural biological manner of living is constitutively aesthetic and effortless, and that we have become culturally blind to this condition. 

In this blindness we have made of beauty a commodity creating ugliness in all dimensions of our living, and through that ugliness, more blindness in the loss of our capacity to see, to hear, to smell, to touch and to understand, the interconnectedness of the biosphere to which we belong. We have transformed aesthetics into an, health into medicine science into technology, human beings into public... and in this way we have lost the poetic look that permitted us to live our daily life as au aesthetic experience, Finally, in that loss, wisdom is lost.

Which is the cure? The creation of the desire to live again, as a natural feature of our biosphere, the effortlessness of a multidimensional human living in a daily life of aesthetic experiences.”

Maturana, H. M.  1993 Biology of the Aesthetic Experience



People seek and find the experience of beauty in many ways.
Many turn to flowers; indeed flowers have come to symbolize beauty.  Many see beauty in artworks and architecture, other people, sunsets, and landscapes.   I like to see beauty “in” people, what people make, and in all these other things. Yet for me the strongest evocations are the hugely diverse natural feature of the biosphere, and us humans as one of the natural features of this same sphere, living as we do, as humans who have this wonderful gift of an awareness of beauty that we can live in community.  

Yet it is difficult to write of this at all without belittling it.

ephemerality and flow

Perhaps the reason that beauty is elusive of distinction, and that I find it difficult to speak of it without sensing that I am imposing constraints on the experience arises from the ephemeral nature of all experience.  Experience happens in the happening, and is only distinguished as such as a separate happening than that which evoked the distinction.

See, it becomes something else as soon as I attempt explain it ... yet maybe what I say will resonate in your own experience and evoke a sense of the dynamic systemic of this experience, and for that matter all our experiences, as living is a happening not a thing.  Living is a flow.  And flow is another notion that is difficult to pin down in definition.  Maybe ephemerality is a remark on the impermanence of something, and flow on the constant arising of all “somethings”.

Perhaps simpler to speak to the awareness that we usually prefer live flowers tp artificial ones, though we might admire and even find the artistry of the artificial ones.   There is something different in our apprehension of that which we know will not last.  Perhaps we gift ourselves with greater attention for that which we are aware will not endure.

Similarly we appreciate sunsets, as they too are ephemeral. We appreciate formations of ice, the coming of spring, and many such things that arise and then are no longer.   And we appreciate youth, especially when it has left us.  

And some people reflect on this and despair, and want to create monuments of one kind or another that will endure.  This is a different sort of attempt to preserve than the notion of conserving the conditions for arising.  I see the arising to have more to do with the manner of walking the path we create create in our living.

I want a cultural change, I want to contribute to a work of art in the domain of human existence, I want to contribute to evoke a manner of coexistence in which love, mutual respect, honesty and social responsibility arise spontaneously from living instant after instant such configuration of emotioning because we all cocreate it in our living together.  That configuration of emotioning cannot be imposed, nor can it be demanded without denying it, it must be lived spontaneously as a matter of course because that is the way we learned to live in our childhood.  Violations of such manner of living will be legitimate mistakes that can be corrected because there will be no intrinsic shame in them, they will be only errors.  If indeed we were to live such a cultural change, what would be most remarkable, is that the configuration of emotioning that such a manner of living entails, would arise in us without effort as we begin to live in it by living in it.  Moreover, such configuration of emotioning will be conserved generation after generation as our manner of cultural living if our children live it because we live it with them.  Indeed, such a manner of living is what we all want to live in our desire for material and spiritual well being.  Utopia? yes because it corresponds to a way of living that has been ours in our evolutionary history, and most of us know it as an experience or as a yearning of our childhood.  Anyway, to do that would be, no doubt, a magnificent work of dynamic art, and a responsible creative act as well if we want to live as Homo sapiens amans.

Maturana, H. R. 1997  Human beings versus machines, or machines as instruments of human design?
Instituto de Terapia Cognitiva, Santiago

mystery and soul

When I say I like to conserve mystery I am not thinking in terms of “mystery stories” where some unknown happening is to be discerned and the apparent dissonance resolved.  What I wish to speak to is an attitude of accepting that we do not, and cannot know anything as a “thing that is out there, and real” and thus can always be open and aware to what arises in our living.  I am speaking to a sense of wonder, and of appreciation.

I can also point out that without such an attitude we easily become stuck in some premise, idea, or belief.  That sort of being stuck is not conducive to wellbeing in our daily living, nor is it supportive of a capacity to observe, and thus not appropriate for science, either.

Something like this same attitude is what underlies my notion about what is “soul”.  When I consider what we refer to as “the soul of music” it seems apparent to me that this is our attempt to refer to the particular manner of the flow of that music that would be different played any other way.  Thus it happens also only in the happening, and we wish to refer to the manner of that happening.  Thus we cannot pin it down, it is not a thing to be pinned down, or held. 

Soul, for me is the flow of being, of my being alive, your being alive in the particular manner of you living ... as a flow of your being of your constant arising. 

I do not really like putting words to this, but I like even less the entrapment of thinking of soul as any sort of something.