I hope you appreciate this column.
Actually, no. I hope you don’t appreciate this column. For now, at least, I hope you do nothing but read it.
Many creatively minded people I know, myself included, have expressed such a lofty goal as to “capture” an instant. They have sought to grasp, in whatever medium, the instantaneous perceptual spectrum: a writer attempting to articulate the beauty of a moment in a single paragraph, or a musician the beauty of a soul in one melody. They try to express their appreciation of something they find undeniably beautiful and true while unequivocally fleeting.
It is through this observation that I came to a conclusion: There is no such thing as active appreciation.
One cannot go to an art museum and say, “I am going to appreciate this painting.” Nor can one go to the symphony and say, “I am going to appreciate this concerto.” Appreciation is truly involuntary.
Forcing yourself to appreciate something is like staring at the sun. In doing so, you attempt to appreciate the thing that lets you visually enjoy the world’s beauty.
You are doing nothing — you are only blinding yourself to the world the sun illuminates.
Imagine the following: It’s 3 a.m. You’ve been up for 18 hours and have a seven-page paper due in your 8 o’clock class. You have your topic, you have your outline — from here on out, it’s only a matter of words on paper. You sit at your “less than modern” desk in your “less than comfortable” chair, drinking your coffee with a “less than convinced I’m going to get this paper done on time” look on your face.
And there it is.
It is worth its weight in gold — five hours’ worth, to be precise. You stare up at the clock and watch the second hand drift slowly, almost mesmerizingly. Every time it goes around, you can see all the words on your screen you haven’t written — but you think you can appreciate the time you have left to write them.
Around and around it goes, and still your appreciation of time grows larger and larger — you are increasingly thankful that you still have those four hours, now three, now two. You furiously hammer away at the keyboard, finally pecking out, word by word, perhaps the worst paper you’ve ever written — all because of the time you lost appreciating time.
To truly appreciate time is not to acknowledge how little of it you have, but to not consciously be aware of it at all — to be aware only of what you’re doing as it passes.
And so it is with everything, in a way: To truly appreciate something is to not know that you are doing so. It is to walk into a museum and see a painting so utterly breathtaking that time itself melts away — to sit down in that concert hall and be so lost in what you hear that you aren’t even aware of yourself.
That poignant creative vision — the true beauty of beautiful truth being captured by and emblazoned on your mind — comes from absolute, unconditional, passive appreciation. Even if you will never know it until the moment is lost forever, it will leave you with something simply inexplicable: gratitude for appreciation.
Chris Jones is a junior majoring in music performance.