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Beauty—The Forgotten Recipe For Happiness


Beauty—The Forgotten Recipe For Happiness

John de Graaf

George Leigh Mallory, who died on Mt. Everest in 1924, was asked why he wanted to climb the world’s tallest peak. “Because it’s there,” he replied. When I was young, I too loved to climb mountains. Most were peaks in California’s Sierra Nevada. The highest, Mt Whitney, was only half as high as Everest and had a trail to the top. Others were more challenging, and the challenge—because they were there—along with companionship on the climbs and bragging rights back home in the suburbs—was part of the appeal.


A much-neglected, underappreciated topic. Great essay.


The beauty of nature is empty - sterile - without The Wild and all the wild animals and insects of every sort that breath life into a landscape. The sixth mass extinction is now well under way and rampant, with humankind the prime-mover of destruction of habitat, mindless criminal pollution, and exterminations of countless wildlife for human profit or ego, or just madness.

The creature in the WH is devoid of any appreciation or respect for anything outside his own extreme narrow experience, education, and life experience of the most contemptible…he is an empty shell of the most constipated sort, that is destroying nature, a clean healthy environment, air & water, complicit to the extinction of numerous species and exterminator of beauty…his life experience is the antithesis of beauty and respect for The Wild and nature in all Her myriad expressions.

We must rid the earth of all that sail with that evil ignorant mindset and experience exemplified by the hideous creature inhabiting the WH!.


Re: the accompanying picture. Nature is plenty beautiful without digital exaggerations of the colors and contrast.


On my walks through the woods with my dog early in the morning, sometimes I marvel at the simple beauties such as a spider web glistening in the sun or the colonization of colorful fungi on a fallen log. One key to beauty is receptivity. ("Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.) In large measure, beauty is a state of mind. Oh, and well conceived and maintained anthropogenic landscapes/buildings can be beautiful, too.


What lovely heartfelt comments! I am so glad to see the tender human heart that swoons at beauty having its day here in the hell realm of politics. Hooray for beauty!

And I note: some mountains don’t want humans all over their tops; some mountains don’t want people there at all. And some are as gregarious as we moderns like to imagine they all are.

Did you ever ask those mountains, before you scaled them?

Did you ever consider that your presence there might interrupt important business your other relations were about there?

Or did you just assume that, since you needed the touch of beauty, you had a “right” to go anywhere and do anything you needed to do to “get” what you needed?

Unless and until we humans grok that we are not the only subjects here, and stop treating Life as a collection of objects here to make our stay here more comfortable, we will continue to exterminate the Earth’s wild beauty—including the wild beauty of our own bodies, hearts and souls.

Until we recover the wisdom of our indigenous selves—unless we consciously take on the mighty task of putting the shattered and scattered shards made by the modern adventure back together again in a new way—unless we regain the humility to praise, to ask, and to listen before grabbing, even with our eyes—we will continue to subject ourselves to the miserable illusion of separation.

And, undone by our self-created alienation, possessed by immature grief and rage, we will continue to attack the web of Life, even though feeling embraced by all of Life is what we most desire.

Yes, WiseOwl, beauty lives within us, or it lives nowhere. It’s in our hearts, our walks, our eyes. It’s up to us to open, to give—not just to take.

Blessed be all the vulnerable lovers of beauty here!


Oddly just this morning I was, for some strange reason, contemplating what could be done with hundreds of billions of dollars wasted on the military, similar to AOC’s remarks about alternative uses of the $5B Trump is demanding for his wall.

I wondered what we could do with just a fraction of those billions, similar to this article’s suggestion, referencing the CCC’s wonderfully inspiring and restorative accomplishments.

Perhaps one prelude to realized beauty is conceptualizing it.


The article starts with this: “George Leigh Mallory, who died on Mt. Everest in 1924, was asked why he wanted to climb the world’s tallest peak. “Because it’s there,” he replied.”

As of August 2018: “porters have carried 28,000 pounds of human waste from Everest base camp to be dumped in pits at Gorak Shep, a frozen lake bed located 17,000 feet above sea level."

John de Graaf ends this piece with: “Let us dream boldly of making America beautiful again. It may or may not save the world, but it will almost certainly make us happier.”

Once again here we have an anthropocentric article about promoting human “happiness”. In the meantime humans and our search for happiness and comfort is killing life on the planet.

Instead of researching what makes people happy I’d like to see more research into why people are knowingly destroying all life on the planet. Does anyone know? Will we figure this out before we’re gone and take the rest of life with us? Why are some people completely devoid of love for the nonhuman world?

It has been my experience that the majority of humans objectify the landscape and have a primary selfish urge to “use nature” for ego rather than have a deep, genuine expansive love that includes reverence and respect for the nonhuman world.

If most humans loved the nonhuman world, it would be protected. To desire beauty simply for beauty’s sake and “happiness” is a selfish ego driven desire that can lead to the destruction of what we perceive as beautiful.

Whether it be mountain bikers, hikers, skiers, ATV’ers, snowmobilers, boaters . . . the earth’s ecosystems have been ravaged by humans who despoil them all the while supposedly admiring them.

I’ve seen woodlands ruined from bikers (who call themselves “environmentalists”), lakes devastated by fishermen/boaters spreading invasive species, mountains coated in human waste, national parks ravaged by humans “admiring their beauty”.

Most of my life has been dedicated to trying to protect remaining ecosystems where I live. I’ve tried to teach people to connect with the nonhuman world in a way that is not harmful to ecosystems which means teaching people about the miraculous world of nonhuman flora and fauna that is necessary for our long term survival.

While a few people get it (as evidenced in many comments above☺️), I have found that many----too many---- do not, most put their own selfish needs first, over the “beauty” of natural areas: people that sell their land for development or log it for a little extra cash (even if they don’t need the money) . . . people who care more about fragmenting the woods for bike trails or going in caves where bats overwinter knowingly spreading white nose bat syndrome just to get their temporary, short lived kicks.

There are endless examples of “Humanity’s ongoing annihilation of wildlife by cutting down the tree of life, including the branch we are sitting on”.

There are far too many ev/hybrid driving, vegan, self proclaimed “progressives” I know that care more about creating more trails for their fat bikes and mountain bikes which rip up pristine woodland/wetland areas than protecting the woodlands. The temporary high they get racing through the woods is more important than the long term health of the woods.

I wish it were as simple as removing the sociopathic/capitalists at the top to stop the destruction of life on earth but I fear it is much more complicated than that.


More examples:
Tourists Are Swarming National Parks And Destroying Them

Erin McCann

America’s national parks were created in 1916 in order to protect the natural beauty of the land but, thanks to millions of tourists, they’re slowly being destroyed. Although national parks also have to deal with huge budget problems, climate change, and Donald Trump’s plans for their future, one of the biggest threats to their survival comes from the people who visit. Three hundred thirty-one million people visited national parks in 2016 , clearly making them a popular tourist destination - but how many of these people were actually bad national park visitors?

Whether they’re harassing wild animals, spray painting thousand-year-old rocks, or burning down the forest, visitors to national parks are gradually ruining them. Traffic within parks has become a problem, prompting new rules and regulations to be considered. The disposal of national park litter costs millions of dollars and thousands of people have to be employed to help clean up after their fellow humans. The national parks may be beautiful, but they won’t stay that way for very long unless visitors vow to treat them with respect instead of like a theme park or personal playground. From Yellowstone to Yosemite to the Grand Canyon, tourists are ruining national parks

From the Guardian 5/21/18

Humans just 0.01% of all life but have destroyed 83% of wild mammals – study

Groundbreaking assessment of all life on Earth reveals humanity’s surprisingly tiny part in it as well as our disproportionate impact

WASHINGTON (AP) — Human feces, overflowing garbage, illegal off-roading and other damaging behavior in fragile areas were beginning to overwhelm some of the West’s iconic national parks on Monday, as a partial government shutdown left the areas open to visitors but with little staff on duty.

“It’s a free-for-all,” Dakota Snider, 24, who lives and works in Yosemite Valley, said by telephone Monday, as Yosemite National Park officials announced closings of some minimally supervised campgrounds and public areas within the park that are overwhelmed.

“It’s so heartbreaking. There is more trash and human waste and disregard for the rules than I’ve seen in my four years living here,” Snider said.


Love knows no borders

a mini doc


I read about when Passenger pigeons were so huge in populations—that the sky would be dark. I read abut the early forests where the squirrels could travel from tree to tree------ most if that is gone—I now live close to a national park----in a group of old cottages built the 1920s -----------and I see beauty everyday. Sometimes it’s a squirrel , although a few months back I saw a bobcat in the pecan tree. I came out the back door and there he was . I think he was aiming for the squirrel dray. I said ,"Wow, and "he turned and looked at me-- and for a few seconds we stared at each other, then he leapt down to the fence--------- I feed the squirrels but I felt bad about the bobcat missing breakfast-------and happy that he didn’t leap away immediately.
I can whistle to let the jays know there are peanuts out on the feeders , and the skunks or raccoons eat the day’s left over cat food. ( Yes I know I’m not supposed to feed the wild things----but it’s either that or throw more stuff in the garbage.)
There are other birds like the green carrots and most of all there are crows. They are so smart. So, If I go outside or just look out fo a window, there is beauty everywhere. NO matter where I have lived, if I have a window and a nearby tree, and the view of the sky---------the world is beautiful. : )


LOL, sorry I meant there are green Parrots-----although flying carrots would be cool too. : )


You have a good eye of nature and human creations having beauty. I was thinking that as I read the piece. Where we go astray is when the heart that sees this beauty separates to a way of wanting to alter things for profit and greed.
Sounds like like you have a nice wooded refuge to share eye and heart with natural beauty.
All other art has a separate, and nearly equal place.


This is an article for the upper-middle class. The enjoyment of many beautiful things and places requires time and money which most Americans don’t have. For example: Half of working Americans can’t afford a $1000 emergency. If we want people to appreciate natural and human-made beauty in the world, they need leisure time. They need living wage jobs with decent vacations and health care. We need a more equal society.


We NEED to protect all of the Bears Ears Wilderness Area. It is more than just beautiful, it is sacred ground. Much of this place can teach us a special type of wisdom. Which informs the brain that beauty has almost unlimited borders if we just imagine them. Collective wisdom with real power.
Just as the mosques in the MENA are, just as the museums in our cities are; the repositories of beauty and wisdom lead use to imagine and gain knowledge and then, more wisdom. Why are we allowing our, and the planet’s, sacred and beautiful places to be destroyed by ignorance and hate-filled people running governments?
We will all pay a very steep price for disturbing sacred and beautiful places. We’re just not wise enough to figure this sad situation out, yet.


Excellent point Tom.


Caroline: Thank you for this post. The contrast in your opening between Mallory’s famous line and the current, despoiled state of Mt. Everest as a surrogate for all nature is stunning. Well done!

Two things come to mind. Mark Epstein published a wonderful book in 1996 titled “Thoughts Without A Thinker: Psychotherapy From A Buddhist Perspective.” He writes wonderfully about delusion–the inability to perceive how our base attractions and aversions compel us, and how hard we spin to accommodate them. Without our incomparable capacity for delusion, the cognitive dissonance would drive us mad. For example, here in the Pacific Northwest, “we” are about to start killing sea lions to “save” salmon to “save” orcas. [Of course, this is naught but rearranging deck chairs on the good ship “Sixth Extinction.” They say it “won’t hurt” the sea lion population, which, to my ears, is a lot like saying shooting immigrants at the border won’t hurt the population of Mesoamerica.] So, delusion is a fundamental, individual reason for our environmental hypocrisy.

Second, Anne Wilson Schaef wrote a fantastic book back in 1988 called, “When Society Becomes an Addict.” This book simply extends the idea of our individual capacity for delusion to society as a whole. We have constructed society to consolidate individual delusion into mass delusion. We put vapor recovery systems and carcinogen warnings on fuel pumps as frequent reminders of our collective, environmental diligence. Then, when a story of, say, Shell’s despoilation of the Niger Delta comes around once every year or two, it rattles our delusion-cage (some of us, anyway), but we quickly settle down again, reassured by the fact that our public utilities take away our holiday recycling (never mind the egregious carbon footprint of Christmas).

Why are we killing ourselves and our planet? Because biophilia is no match for mass delusion regarding mass consumption. Not a very satisfactory answer, is it?


I don’t normally respond to comments on my articles. And I appreciate much of what has been said here. I believe you can climb and hike with reverence to the landscape and have always been careful in my practices. Yes, the parks are getting overused, but this is partly because we are losing beauty close to home and feel we need to go away to find it. Yes, we need economic equality and jobs but those points are being made it by others. Every article doesn’t have to make every point. I worked for years for shorter work hours as director of Take Back Your Time and am a committed advocate for social justice. I’m looking for a way to begin getting people talking to each other. You can moralize saying happiness doesn’t matter but to most people it does, and you have to reach them there. Finally as to this being an upper middle class issue, that’s not true at all. My story on what’s happening in Vallejo (see link in article) shows that even in a very diverse, struggling city people want nature and beauty. It was immigrant textile workers who demanded Bread and ROSES too knowing that all life isn’t about money. The view that beauty is not a concern of the poor or workers is itself elitist. getting people to care about beauty and its loss helps make them more concerned about the environment as a whole There’s much evidence for all of these points. I just don’t see why the Left has to be so narrow and ignore the importance of beauty. We can have bread AND ROSES TOO. And the call AND BEAUTY FOR ALL is a call for environmental justice, but in words that allow us to have conversations beyond the left. Nuff said.


Tom, see my comments below: I spent 15 years directing Take Back Your Time, an organization working for family leave, sick leave, a national vacation law, a state vacation law etc. It’s just not possible to include every point in every article. Poor Americans do want beauty in their lives. Read my piece on Vallejo, CA (link in the article). It was the poorest immigrant textile workers who in 1912 demand BREAD AND ROSES TOO! Why does the left think of justice in such narrow terms. The right to beauty is important for all of us.


As worthwhile as TBYT is as a mission-oriented organization, you don’t have the power to accomplish your mission - not even close. I don’t mean to be disrespectful, but it’s a joke. This is a class issue and requires mobilization as a class to accomplish. It might be useful for you for perspective, to go re-read the Powell memo.