We too often ignore inanimate objects; treating them, if we think of them at all, like the wallpaper to our consciousness or the backdrop to life’s drama. Yet this is a misguided view of the world. The world that we are not separate from – autonomous – but integral, and altered by. The products of design obviously have a mind or several minds behind them; and an aesthetic purpose. Similarly, the natural world has forever been treated in human terms as beautiful, inspiring, happy or sad or changeable.
The qualities we ascribe to ourselves and externals ignores that reality is reciprocal, between the two. Thus a human can be described as dignified, just as a tree can be described as dignified. Yes, it is figurative, but figurative is by no means wrong when it is our thoughts. There is no correct interpretation for emotion and manner when instinctively we feel it in human and nonhuman alike.
In much of Eastern Philosophy, particularly Lao Tzu, there is a tradition around the inspiration of the natural world – at exhibiting values worthy of emulation or appreciation. The same is true of art. We lose sight of what art is for when we try to justify it as a recommendation or argument or by its limited use value (everyone uses a phone, exceptions use a Banksy photo). The onus ought to be on what a work of art does to someone by altered mood, reflection, calm, pleasure or pleasing displeasure rather what is said of its interpreted – so perhaps added-on rather manifest, actual – philosophy, recommendations, objectives.
So by reframing our thoughts into an acceptance that thinking is figurative, metaphorical, we can view the natural world of water as soft, fluid, adaptable and likewise look at trees as heroes of endurance and grace that bend with the winds, so do not break in them. We can appreciate fiery and passionate red or serene and calm white as wonders. So we can understand that a house is not an incidental but a home. Made a home through design and the apparent incidentals as much as loved ones, in its own design and chic.
With an understanding for the effect of the external on our internal world, we may rethink the role of art and design in actually putting thought into what surrounds us and in choosing what affects our minds. A well ordered design is a blessing that has a calming effect and a collage can be a reliable source of support, recollection and happiness. An ornament has a character and the stylisation of a book can suggest a personality.
And it matters. It matters because what you let in the senses, constitutes the total sum of your life. The way we treat this is to ignore how our environment alters our consciousness and how design is the work of thoughts.