the aesthetic of hope

I met Gregory two summers ago at Museum Camp. I bet that sounds real dorky, but it was actually awesome. The theme that summer was "Space Making" and we got to dive deep in exploring how to make space; both for ourselves and for others. At the root, this concept is about carving time for yourself to cultivate creativity, while also finding opportunities to empower others to ignite their own creative cultivation. Additionally, learning how to care for ourselves to avoid burnout is also critical while space making. 

In this piece, Gregory beautifully offers how we can make space for ourselves in order to shine in our best light. It's more simple than we think. 

Gregory is one of the most upbeat, go-getter creative forces I've had the opportunity to work with and I'm stoked for you all to glean from what he shares here. -emidobz

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My personal mission is to bring more experiences of beauty to people’s lives. Aesthetic surrounds us. But really: what is an “aesthetic?”

By definition, aesthetic is, “a set of principles underlying and guiding the work of a particular artist or artistic movement.”

How do we create our own personal aesthetic?

I like to think of three simple practices that begin to define this:

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It is interesting to reflect on your built environment and your surroundings. The aesthetic can dictate your mood or attitude. Some people are more sensitive to it than others. When new people or strangers enter such a particular setting, some don’t know how to ask the first question. I begin with a smile. Mainly because I remain confident in knowing that one of my best personal attributes is my smile.

Smile right now. I dare you. Try it at least once a day. Smiling is a great way to reduce anxiety (it is proven, even when you are faking it, smiling can lower stress).

You might not like your smile as much as I like mine, but it goes beyond the physicality of the corners of your mouth turning upwards. In biology, we mirror each other’s actions at moments. Smiling is an action of love and care for one another that we often at times take for granted. I think if we all try to smile a bit more, we can create more of a community rooted in love and compassion.

I will note I had a great conversation with some of my female friends about the concept of smiling. They told me that they have grown up being told to “smile more” and “always be smiling.” So my postscript to this aesthetic: We can make space for holding ourselves accountable to never force anything that doesn’t feel quite right.

“But love is really more of an interactive process. It's about what we do not just what we feel. It's a verb, not a noun.” -Bell Hooks


Recommended Reading: All About Love: New Visions by Bell Hooks <--- Shop your local bookstore


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The average amount of time a museum goer looks at a piece of art is 10 seconds. What do we spend our time looking at? What is worth looking at? In these uncertain times, we must be diligent about what we look at and what we read. Learn how to curate for yourself.

When I was working at an art museum, I had the great privilege of working with David Hockney, a great British queer artist. He was taking a smoke break and we were outside chatting it up (as one does). He said, people don’t ever really take time the look. He proceeded to talk about the crack in the sidewalk and how he was always interested in where the sidewalk meets the ground. This moment has stuck with me. Great artists obsessively observe the world. We often take for granted: our commutes, our time in between from point A to point B and our own homes. What might happen if we took a bit more time to slow down and look. What might you notice more?

“What an artist is trying to do for people is bring them closer to something, because of course art is about sharing: you wouldn't be an artist if you didn't want to share an experience, a thought.” David Hockney

Viewing: DAVID HOCKNEY  <--- If you are traveling to London soon :)


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This third one might be a bit challenging for you urban dwellers…but I’ve made it work, and so can you. Find a way to touch dirt. For the last couple of months, I have worked for a farm selling produce at the Farmers Market. It seems simple, acting as intermediary in the complex food system. Yet, I have found I represent a connection to a small business every Saturday morning selling to mostly regular customers, world-class chefs and amateurs alike (and, sure, some tourists too). Our customers are highly loyal to the product, much more loyal than any re-tweet or Facebook follower user. They fawn over our flowers, our sandy carrots, long sultry beans, sweet strawberries or whatever might be in season. That’s the key to it - in season. Because what we have to offer each week depends on the soil. The market is a representation of time and weather. In our digital age, we are rarely faced with the precarity of earth. Those who come regularly wait patiently for their seasonal food items. We talk about it anxiously every week. What’s next, how many weeks, when can I start planning that meal? Even in Northern California, I had never felt the dread of winter lifted when the season’s first asparagus popped up at the market. I had never felt such green relief. Touching our carrots every Saturday morning at 5:30 am (when the farmers have been up since 2:30 am) grounds me completely after traveling 99 miles north to the heart of San Francisco. These are real things to help in building resilience. Not just caveats or “nice to have’s.” We must take these carrots seriously.

On Being Kind to the Soil, George Washington Carver, January 31, 1914

“Neither does he (they/the farmer) forget that there is an innate and inseparable relationship between the fertility of the soil and the stock kept on the farm. Plenty of well-fed stock, with the manure well cared for and returned to the soil means increased fertility to the soil, more home comforts to the farmer, a general uplift to the community in which he (they/the farmer) lives, and represents the highest type of kindness to the soil."


Doing: Learn about seasonal eating. Go to a local farmer’s market and support your farmers: CUESA (Center for Urban Education about Sustainable Agriculture)


To share a smile, to look closer, and to touch dirt are three simple actions I know contribute not only to my personal aesthetic, but provide hope. When you exchange a smile, explore your everyday surroundings a bit deeper and connect with the earth, a shining glimmer of betterment is sparked not only for ourselves within our everyday surroundings, but also within our communites. I am such a firm believer that these three actions will ultimately lead to bigger things on your journey. I also know there’s so many more. I would love to learn more on the aesthetic of hope----what are some ways that you find or create hope into your daily life?- Gregory Stock., Illustrations by Adriana SantaMaria


gregory stock