The word “aesthetics” means something different for everyone. There are many things that everyone may find aesthetically pleasing, such as the taste of your favorite food or the way you look after getting all dressed up. However, there are also many differences. Something I find personally find pretty “beautiful,” if you will, is the feeling of coming home from school and watching 8 hours of TV shows online instead of doing my homework. A more productive and motivated person might, on the other hand, look it at in the way that coming home and working their butt off is awesome because it will improve their grade. So what is it that makes things so beautiful or ugly to us? Our senses play a big part in it. Sight, smell, taste, touch and hearing are what make up the things we like or dislike. However, a lot of it also has to do with our emotional history and what kinds of emotions different things regulate.
This winter break I went to visit family in Kelowna. The drive there was very aesthetically pleasing; the mountains were enriched with snow and we drove through a snowstorm for about an hour. Pretty breathtaking. Despite the fact that it was 4 hours and I usually don’t like to sit still for very long, I found the combination of listening to music and looking at the view very calming and enjoyable. I didn’t want the drive to end. Coming home, however, was not as pleasing. I got the stomach flu while we were there and felt like puking my guts out the entire ride home. I tried to make myself more comfortable by sleeping and listening to my favorite music, but nothing helped. Suddenly, the snow covered mountains looked ugly to me. Music made me feel anxious and distressed. I felt hot and claustrophobic in the car and didn’t want to be anywhere but at home. I’ve had many similar experiences to this throughout my entire life. Sometimes, I feel unusually sensitive to unknown surroundings. The question is, how can our own personal emotions affect us aesthetically, and what happens when something like a sickness interferes with our aesthetic experiences? Music is a good example. I don’t know about you, but the songs I choose to listen to depend on my mood. I’m musically bipolar. I could love a song one day and want to never listen to it again the next because it suddenly reminds me of an emotionally upsetting event in my life. Experiences like this will either successfully avoid emotions or further regulate them. Some people enjoy regulating emotions more than others. A lot of people, mostly women, enjoy watching movies that make them cry and stimulate emotions. I personally don’t like movies like that because of the same reason I don’t like certain songs: I don’t like feeling upset or being reminded of something emotionally painful. However, if it’s healthy to regulate emotions, is it a good idea to watch a sad movie or listen to a sad song if it could cause emotional pain? To me, aesthetics depends on which emotions we choose to face. The difference between a positive and a negative experience is what we allow ourselves to love or hate.