What Makes Life Worth Living: A List of Beautiful Things

This is the first in a series of (at least) 30 posts I’m going to write this month as part of what Wesley Zhao and I have dubbed No-Blog-Sloth November Challenge. One post will appear here a day from now until the end of November.

There’s a great scene at the end of Woody Allen’s late-1970’s masterpiece Manhattan where the main character, Isaac Davis, reflects on the things that make life worthwhile. You can watch the clip, which is probably one of my favorites from any movie I’ve ever seen embedded below. 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKTQ4a3BR5c]

I love this clip because of how unbelievably personal and heartfelt its contents are. Although Allen is playing a fictional character in the movie, I think at a certain point it becomes crystal clear that he is in fact talking about himself and what makes his own life worthwhile. And that’s what makes the clip so beautiful.

There’s a lot to be said about the definition of beauty, and whether the experiencing of beautiful things is actually what makes life worthwhile (in fact I would argue that there are other things that do so in addition) but for now I’d like to start where Allen left off and list a few of the beautiful things in my life that I think make it worthwhile.

Jackson Browne 

If there’s been one constant in my musical taste over the past 5 or 6 years it’s been him. There’s a certain melancholy poetry in his lyrics that hit a note within me that no other artist does. I listen to him every day. I’ve embedded the first song I ever heard from him below, but if you get a chance definitely check out some of his early albums on Spotify.

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kqYiHkx7ils]

The Prophet by Kahlil Gibran 

A great example of long-form poetry filled with stunning metaphor and clear lessons. It’s always comforting to crack it open when I’m feeling a little adrift.

Watching Christopher Hitchens Debate

Watching Christopher Hitchens eviscerate opponents on YouTube has occupied many, many hours of my time. The man is unbelivably learned, poised and eloquent. His beauty is truly an example of beauty in combat. 

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=doKkOSMaTk4]

Ice Floes by Claude Monet

I really like French impressionist paintings, but when I stumbled across this at the Met last year it took my breath away. I literally sat down and stared at it for a half an hour. I don’t know anything about art, but I love the subtle way in which he uses changes in saturation to bring the trees on the far bank out from the background. Looking at it online doesn’t do it justice, but you can see it here.

Reflections on the Revolution in France by Edmund Burke

I don’t agree with everything Edmund Burke says, but I loved almost all of this work where Irish statesman essentially predicted the Reign of Terror and the rise of Napoleon in post-Revolutionary France. Here’s my favorite passage:

Society is indeed a contract…It is a partnership in all science; a partnership in all art; a partnership in every virtue, and in all perfection. As the ends of such a partnership cannot be obtained in many generations, it becomes a partnership not only between those who are living, but between those who are living, those who are dead, and those who are to be born. Each contract of a particular state is but a clause in the great primaeval contract of eternal society, linking the lower with the higher natures, connecting the visible and invisible world, according to a fixed compact sanctioned by the inviolable oath which holds all physical and moral natures, each in their appointed place.

Notes from Underground by Fyodor Doestoevsky

A book you can read in a couple of hours but 100% worth it. 

Lost In Translation

I love its ability to portray feelings of disconnection by placing its characters in such a foreign and modern environment. Easily one of my favorite movies (along with most of Woody Allen).

Yo Yo Ma

His unnacompanied cello suites are amazing, but I think perhaps my favorite piece by him is called Air. I couldn’t find it on YouTube but it’s on Spotify on his Impressions album. Here’s probably his most recognizable song:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PIM1qT0sqKM]

Some more:

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

Clair de Lune by Claude Debussy

Watching Herbert von Karajan conduct Beethoven’s 9th

The Book of Five Rings by Musashi

Watching the Jets on Sunday (this probably should be generalized to football in general given the Jets’ history as a franchize)

I have a bunch more but I think this list is getting a little long. I hope some of the things here bring a little bit more beauty to your life. Feel free to add some of your beautiful things to the comments.

See you tomorrow. Oh, and you should follow me on Twitter.

31 Oct 2011, 6:29pm | 1 comment


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