The Aesthetics of Work

A little while back I blogged about the workrooms of famous men.  Today comes news of a great-looking new book called Where They Create (Frame, 2012).  It’s very expensive and features the photography of a talented man named Paul Barbera.

The little I’ve seen from the PR of the book reminds me that aesthetics matter.  Design has practical significance for our everyday lives.  That may seem counterintuitive.  Aren’t we supposed to just, well, work in whatever surroundings we find ourselves?  Isn’t art/design/beauty ephemeral and unimportant?

I go the other way.  I think the physical environment you create matters.  The cleanness of your desk, the pictures you hang on your wall, the natural lighting you favor over fluorescent lights, the chair in which you sit–these things shape the way you think about your work.  If you are in a messy, ugly environment, you have to fight against it in creating and working, I think.

Of course, as I write this, I’m reminded of Jonathan Edwards (everything reminds me of Jonathan Edwards).  He did a good deal of his writing in what was essentially a closet.  So there’s some irony for you: the most aesthetic of evangelical theologians worked in a thoroughly plain setting.  But–and this is big–Edwards absolutely relished walks in the New England outdoors.

That, my friends, is an office one can only dream of, and only an aesthetic God, the God who is himself beauty, can create.

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