Feeding Your Soul


Lately, my husband and I have gone to a couple of free, old-fashioned “salon” type gatherings at the Science House in Manhattan.

The first talk we went to was about String Theory, and the second was on Quantum Mechanics.

Now, before you run away, I just want you to know that I am not a science or math-y type person–I still blanch at the mere mention of a word problem and I know we’re made up of cells and atoms and everything, but, well, it all gets kind of hazy for me after that.

What’s great about these talks though, is we have a fabulous teacher who makes these complicated ideas accessible to the layperson–he leaves out the math and we discuss the concepts.

So we spent each of these evenings exploring big ideas about physics, the men who figured them out, what all we still don’t know, what we used to believe but don’t anymore, etc. (I love the ‘we’ thing, like I even have a clue.)

It was so fun.

And I realized that one of the reasons it was so fun is that the entire evening was spent exploring ideas. Sitting with a small group of strangers of varying degrees of scientific understanding chatting about the universe, our origins, and everything that’s either gigantic or uber-tiny about life itself.

How often do we really do that? I know it’s pretty rare for me. It felt so enriching, interesting and nourishing.

But that’s not all–my day was even better.

Before the Quantum Mechanics talk, I also spent the afternoon at the Metropolitan Museum, (my favorite temple of art) and had a similarly nourishing afternoon immersing myself in great works of art.

The mix of pleasure in the formal elements (I love the way he expressed the light there) and the conceptual ideas (I love how she captured that idea by doing that there) was rich and deep and satisfying. This got me thinking.

In Search of the Real Deal

Because our daily modern lives are a bombardment of slogans, an onslaught of images, and a parade of overly loud, fast-talking media hype, we feel like we’re in information overload.

And we are, but so much of it is garbage that we misunderstand our fatigue of garbage with a fatigue of information itself.

It’s like living on a steady diet of candy and slowly dying of malnutrition.

Don’t get me wrong, the candy usually tastes really good, which is why we’re eating it. After a while, we get kind of used to it and come to think that it’s what we want and maybe even prefer.

Consequently, these enriching experiences start to seem too hard, like they require too much energy from us. Especially in a tiring week, we just want something undemanding, easy and relaxing. Pop music feels easier than classical; TV feels just as good as live theater; shopping is more fun than going to a museum, etc.

The thing is, though, that these “wonkier” activities don’t actually require more energy because they infuse us with energy. They don’t deplete us, they nourish us. Why? Because they’re the real deal.

Now, just so we’re clear–I love to shop, I watch TV, and if I showed you my ipod you’d either think I have a very broad musical taste or have zero discernment (I prefer the broad palette theory).

So what am I saying? I’m saying that it’s way out of balance. The vast majority of the information coming at us is the equivalent of fast food and aside from turning us into junkies, it tricks us into thinking we don’t have the energy for a three course meal. Or the power to make one.

It tricks us into thinking we don’t have the energy for something deeper, more meaningful, enriching. I know it happens to me because I have memberships to museums that I only attend a handful of times a year. How can this be? I can see Manhattan from my kitchen window, for cryin’ out loud!

So my visit to the Science House and the Met were rewarding, gentle reminders that I’d gotten out of balance. The good thing is, once we take steps back toward these “harder” things and find ourselves nourished, we want more.

Even better, it changes our relationship to the easier stuff.

Maybe we still watch the TV, for instance, but turn it off after the one show we like. We shop, but less, because our need for beauty, visual and sensory stimulation is getting fed from a gallery or a short visit to the museum. The easy stuff is in its proper place and it no longer dominates. And when it doesn’t dominate, it can’t deplete.

The Antidote

So at the end of a long day, when you flop yourself down on the couch, and feel soooooo tired, too tired, maybe to make something/work on your projects, ask yourself, is that true?

What could you make or look at or think about or read that would feed your soul, nourish your tired brain?

What could you spend 20 minutes on tonight that would feed your artistic self? Paint some backgrounds? Figure out your buttonholer on your sewing machine? Paw through your beads?

I bet your whole night changes.

What do you think? Have you had this experience too? Do you disagree? Leave a comment, I’d love to hear!

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Categories : Art, Inspiration


  1. Laura says:

    Wow, I have been feeling exactly this way – so worn out from running around that it feels too hard to pick up something (like a good book) that requires a little thought. It is really helpful to be reminded that those things actually nourish us more, and really aren’t that hard.

    Recently, I went into New York and saw an exhibit at the Cooper Hewitt on green design that was quite nice. It was good, and it made me feel like more of that would be even better.

  2. Michelle says:

    Your comment about “paw through your beads” hit home. I recently began making my own jewelry. It didn’t know I could make such lovely accessories with my own hands! We live on a small farm, yet I don’t have a garden nor any animals, so that’s something I’ll change this spring. I’m planting some strawberries and tomatoes, and pumpkins for the grandkids. I’ve spent so much time being busy that my life is passing me by and I fear I won’t have enjoyed as much of it as I can. It’s time to change.

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