• Jolene Roehlkepartain

Why We Need Beauty When Life Is Hard

Updated: Jun 13, 2020

My community of Minneapolis and St. Paul has been going through a gut-wrenching time following the murder of George Floyd by police. After days of peaceful protests, more than 1,500 businesses were burned, destroyed, and looted. Many of these businesses are minority owned, and the loss of these businesses has resulted in many people not having access to grocery stores, pharmacies, health care, and other essential services.

The destruction led to more destruction, and evening curfews were set with the state’s largest-ever civil deployment of the National Guard with more than 7,000 soldiers.

The grief, the rage, the overwhelm have been intense, which is why we need to pace ourselves during hard times. Yes, we need to continue to work for justice, and we also need time to build our reserves for the long journey of change. I take care of myself by taking breaks to pay attention to beauty. Why?

Beauty calms us—After seeing another Black person killed by police (1,028 shot within the past year) and smoldering blocks of destruction, we need reminders of how to take care of our souls. Beauty slows me down, calms me, and helps me to rest. Once I build up my reserves, I then have the energy to reflect on my next best steps to work for justice and equity.

Beauty inspires us—During times of creating new, equitable systems and rebuilding communities, beauty can inspire us to do even more. Beauty can infuse our efforts with creativity, connection—and aesthetics.

Beauty brings joy—During hard times, it’s easy to slog through the difficulties and then burn out. We need joy in our lives, even when a lot of pain exists. Finding moments of beauty and joy help to lighten the heavy load of hard times.

“Beauty awakens the soul to act,” says Dante Alighieri, the poet who wrote the Divine Comedy that describes his journey through Hell. By paying attention to beauty, we not only feed our souls but we also discern what to do next to make the world better.

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