An Excerpt from Jim Conrad's
NATURALIST NEWSLETTER
of May 16, 2010
Issued from Hacienda Chichen Resort adjoining Chichén Itzá Ruin in
YUCATÁN, MÉXICO

WHY DOES EXPERIENCING BEAUTY
FEEL GOOD?

When I hear a Bach fugue, it feels good. The question is, why?

Sex feels good because our genes robustly predispose us to procreation. They've gone so far as to instruct our developing bodies to hotlink nerve-ending-rich sexual parts with our pleasure centers. This makes sense. But, why do we feel pleasure just because tones in a Bach fugue are managed beautifully? It's hard to see how evolution could have encoded an appreciation of beauty into our genes. And how could such an appreciation impart a competitive advantage to an evolving species?

Maybe an answer is suggested by the Gaia concept -- the notion that planet Earth functions as a single self-regulating organism.

Those who think about the Gaia concept often suggest that humanity is such a threat to biosphere stability that Gaia identifies humans as disease organisms. Plagues and wars that reduce human numbers represent Gaia's immune system kicking in, trying to bring us under control. If there's something to that thought, we begin seeing how humanity's sense of beauty could serve to encourage Earth-friendly behavior in the human component of the Gaia unity.

For, anyone living sustainably and harmonizing his or her lifestyle with Earth's natural systems senses the beauty in that lifestyle, and that form of living beautifully feels good.

So, maybe as wars and plagues can be thought of as Gaia's antibodies trying to bring the numbers of destructive humans under control, our feeling good when we do beautiful, Earth-nurturing things can be thought of as Gaia's dopamine -- dopamine being the human body's "pleasure hormone" -- encouraging Earth-nurturing humans to keep doing what they're doing.

Some people are born with highly developed esthetic sensibilities that unerringly direct them toward beautiful things, while in others that genetic imperative is less assertive. Even those born with acute esthetic sensitivities generally must make some kind of effort to activate and encourage their gifts. Those born with little esthetic sensitivity can be taught certain tricks that help them enjoy beauty, despite themselves.

Such was my own case with music. Before I began feeling such pleasure hearing Bach fugues, I needed to a little study and I had to practice in such things as identifying themes and recognizing changes in key.

In the same way, to sensitize oneself to the beauties of Life on Earth, and thus to make oneself more available to the pleasures Nature's beauty affords (via Gaia's dopamine), it pays to make an effort to learn about living things, how they work, how they interrelate, and to physically go places where Nature most exquisitely reveals Herself. Facebook Icon.