How Europeans could relate to Life in 2017: Beauty can be the key to belonging

There are no easy answers to great problems, even though some of us are willing to give them. And easy answers don’t help either to internally stay on track, although it might feel that way. The world is not a simple place, but like the human being, infinitely complicated. We all have come to know that now, I suppose.

“Is this still my world?”, you might ask yourself, looking back on the recent attacks in Europe: Paris, Brussels, Nice, Munich — unfortunately this is not the end of my list.

It is sad but true that the ugly face of violence seems to unite all of our magnificent
European cultures at the moment through our grief, anxiety and pain. And at the same time the deep beauty of each and every culture might offer us the possibility of an escape out of our feeling “unheimisch”, estranged or disconnected.

The Italian psychologist and philosopher Piero Ferrucci describes in his book Beauty and the Soul (2009) what happens when we feel empty, discouraged and worst of all, out of place. We are closed in in our own inner world, feel disconnected; we are ‘under house arrest’. This happens often when other people are not behaving like we think they should, when we feel a lot of pain, or when we are tired. When we aren’t relating to the other persons’ way of thinking any more.

Experiencing Beauty
It is vitally important to release ourselves in moments like this from our own house arrest and to open up again. Ferrucci underlines the relative ease of experiencing beauty as a way to elevate ourselves in this way. “Experiencing beauty is a victory over discouragement.”, as he puts it.

In our disorientation we might tend to think that it is wise to counter evil with goodness, if we have the energy, to neutralize its damaging effects. But there are very wise people (the Russian writer Dostoevsky for example) who say something else: Beauty counters evil.

Experiencing beauty is also in my opinion the most personal and easy way to be elevated from heaviness, from injustice, and to create mental space. It also leads us to celebrate life and still be good to other people.

European reservoir
What a comfort that we have so much of this precious stuff in Europe. What a reservoir full of medicine for our discouragement!
So I sincerely hope that these days you are able to experience the beauty of the green grass in the United Kingdom, the beauty of the magnificent buildings in Paris, the beauty of the Mediterranean see in Nice.

I do hope that you are moved by the beauty of the attentive face of a good friend in Munich, that you see the beautiful colours of the good food in Italy and enjoy the beautiful ironic atmosphere of Brussels. And that you do think in these moments what I think when I see the huge Vermeer-like clouds in The Netherlands: “Yes, I do belong! This is still my world.”

Ferrucci, P. (2009) Beauty and the Soul: The extraordinary power of everyday beauty to heal your life. New York, Jeremy P. Tarcher/Penguin.
Campbell, J. The Hero’s Journey (2003) , Joseph Campbell on His Life and Work, Novato, New World Library.
Dostoevsky, F., The Idiot, (2013), Amsterdam, Van Oorschot.
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