We want to be the poets of our life—first of all, in the smallest, most everyday matters. – Friedrich Nietzsche
I imagine that, of all the creative games we play, some of the most purposeful and functional are those designed to transform otherwise painstaking components of our reality into more tolerable—even pleasurable—experiences. Work. Errands. Personal upkeep. Household responsibilities. The kind of routine that often lulls us into a quiet, albeit fitful, passivity. Comprised of the kinds of activities we’d gladly pay others to do for us. Either because we’ve lost sight of their value or, due to fatigue, distraction, or lack of perspective, we’ve neglected to give them value in the first place, to imbue them with life. It is in these moments—in some of the most lifeless aspects of our existence—that I see the most potential for creative play. For expression, transfiguration, and alchemy. For the humanization of the rote and the mundane. For the celebration of the sensual and the insertion of personal style.
While I’ve written descriptively on the ritualistic and transformative components of sensual living, and even applied those ideas to cooking, specifically, I have yet to discuss what I see as the true importance of living a sensual life. Why I think sensual ceremony is vital to a soulful, creative existence. And why I firmly believe that some of the smallest changes we can make to infuse our daily routines with color, texture, and life are, in the end, some of the most enriching and profound changes we are capable of making to and for ourselves.
Here are some thoughts on the importance of sensual living and the value of transforming the little things:
Sensual living is a rebellion against the ordinary.
The dull. The laborious. The one-dimensional. The I-just-can’t-wait-for-it-to-be-overs. If there is a key to transforming drudgery into pleasure, then, to me, leveraging the aesthetics of the moment is it. Whenever I don’t feel like writing (but I must), I choose to write in my home office. A self-created personal sanctuary. I listen to music. I curl up on my floor seat. Surrounded by my favorite colors and patterns. Sipping a cup of black tea. Creativity responds to ambience.
Indeed, I think of physical activity similarly. I don’t always feel like going for my morning run (in the scheme of things, a relatively new routine). On days when my energy level isn’t optimal, it’s the pleasure of being in motion that gets me out the door. Even—or especially—when it’s cold outside. Sweat. The cool air brushing against my face, burning my lungs, invigorating each and every step. The angsty rock in my headphones inciting me forward. Running itself, then, becomes a kind of expression. Life lived by a body that is, momentarily, more alive. (The parallels between fitness and creativity. A topic for a future post, perhaps.)
It’s the feeling that motivates me when the work itself doesn’t. The experience. Or, I should say, it’s the pleasure of the experience. The extraordinariness of it. The beauty that we are capable of cultivating when we immerse ourselves in the creation of moment.
Sensual living is humanizing.
It may be self-indulgent to suggest that I need to seek beauty in the moments of my life. That I need to lavish that kind of attention on myself. That I purposely ritualize certain activities, like cooking and dining, in order to express my personal style. In order to experience the sensual harmony of preparing and enjoying a good meal. From dicing/chopping/marinating to garnishing the plate. To serving and setting a table.
If those pleasures were withheld from me for too long, or if I chose to give responsibility for them over to someone else routinely, I would feel as if I were dying inside. I would feel starved of the ability to create, of beauty, and above all, of feeling. To ritualize the activities of our daily lives—to make them expressive—is to draw out the soul in them. It is to live them more fully and, in those moments, to be more fully human. Especially as we share those moments with others.
Sensual living is a transfiguration.
When I consider what it means to live sensually, I imagine a kind of alchemical process. A transfiguration of time. Exchanging the reality that we see for another. The truth is that if I were to engage with reality as it is, most of the time, I don’t know that I would be able to tolerate it. It’s lacking. It’s flat and agonizingly one-dimensional. To run is simply to run. A calorie-burner. To cook is to warm my lunch. To drive is to move from one destination to another. Work. Home. Work. Home.
If I couldn’t make something of it all—with language, with imagery, with my senses, or other materials of daily life—I am not certain how I would live. If I could live at all. I often think of reality as a kind of starvation. Raw material. It beckons to be created. To be made whole. Either escaped or made from.
I don’t talk a great deal about the happenings of my personal life on this blog, but I feel it’s appropriate to share with all of you that I will be departing this weekend for a nearly two-week-long trip to Tanzania. Where I have every intention of climbing my way to the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. 😬 I am hoping this trip will be a perspective-changer for me, and I would like to think my experience there will influence my work here on The Used Life. As you might imagine, I won’t have access to wifi during much of my trip. I do however, plan to publish at least one post while I am gone, although I will probably not be as attentive to comments as I normally am. I will do my best to respond when possible. Thank you for being patient, and as always, thank you for reading!