Hamel: Aesthetics connect us to nature


Emily Blobaum

A scene from Ledges State Park in Boone, Iowa.

Peyton Hamel

Notice how we first absorb aesthetics directly from nature, ranging from the common Iowa sunset above the cornfields to the exotic caterpillars on that watery leaf outside Catt Hall. Our definitions of beautiful complement our own unique perceptions that were guided by our childhoods and experiences. Why are we so attracted to those aesthetics and why do we go out of our way to chase them? 

In short, aesthetics generate happiness! For those of you who are not science majors, happiness is a natural, hormone-based reaction to environmental events through neurotransmitters of dopamine, serotonin, norepinephrine and endorphins. In the scientific study “Happiness & Health: The Biological Factors,” head researcher Dariush Dfarhud proclaims happiness divides from “two dimensions: endogenic factors (biological, cognitive…) and exogenic factors (behavioral, … life events and aesthetics subfactors).” Therefore, aesthetics produce happiness.

File away any predetermined thoughts and let’s have a little thought-provoking discussion. On average, our brains cannot process all the information we ingest in a day, so our brains skip over irrelevant information such as pop-up advertisements on websites or YouTube commercials. We automatically exit out of the box. What if we actively probe our surroundings for aesthetics to help make sense of the world around us? We are always implementing active methods to find aesthetics in a relatively chaotic environment called life. Look at your own social media profiles, desk organization or Snapchat stories. 

There are two ways aesthetics are manufactured in the real world – by man or by nature. Man-made aesthetics include poetry, Van Gogh paintings, architecture or photography. Nature-made aesthetics, of course, have varied beauty from oceans, raindrops, sunlight through leaves or the squish of wet grass on a morning run. 

In a certain manner, aesthetics bring “the calm” to your brain or a heavily simplified and interpretable image, which relaxes your brain muscles and induces pleasure-based neurotransmitters. It may help your study habits to be surrounded by aesthetic environments.

Aesthetics can also very well require a sense of reflective contemplation because of their sensory qualities. It makes us humanitarians, even if for a split second. It makes us consider our environment and possibly humanity itself. 

Aesthetics bring us to our roots bound in nature. Philosophers such as Aristotle and Socrates firmly believe in the human connection to nature whilst in pursuit of knowledge and fulfillment. Appreciate your environment while you can and appreciate the knowledge granted to you from all the possible sources. We might as well take advantage of what nature offers. From both personal and scientific scopes, I am a strong advocate of aesthetics, but I also encourage you to be, too!