The Art of Appreciation

Welcome to another eclectic Friday blog where I can write about more unusual ideas.
Whilst I am interested, like many people, in a good cup of tea, this is actually about the appreciation of art.  One aspect of the Japanese Tea Ceremony, as developed and refined over the centuries, was the selection of pieces of art presented by tea-masters to their disciples for their appreciation.
One master, Kobori Enshui was complemented on his admirable taste as he displayed objects from his collection:  ‘Each piece is such that no one could help admiring.  It shows that you had better taste than Rikiu, for his collection can only be appreciated by one beholder in a thousand’.  Enshui sorrowfully replied, ‘This only proves how commonplace I am.  The great Rikiu dared to love only those objects which personally appealed to him, whereas I unconsciously cater to the taste of the majority’.
This story is so poignant on many levels:
  1. Excellence is not commonplace but can you recognise excellence in order that you might learn from it? 
  2. To achieve the next level requires others to understand what might be possible, which they might not have the skill to do.
  3. Most importantly this is not about the appreciation of art but about the art of appreciation.
In these days of focus groups, customer satisfaction surveys and feedback, people hone their ability to give criticism.  It is easy to criticise, you ask for someone’s opinion on a meal they have just eaten, or what they thought of the film, or how was the conference and you will often be greeted with an ‘It was alright’.  If you are lucky they might leave their position of safely sitting on the fence and venture that it was good or not.  Have we lost the ability to appreciate or to show our appreciation?
What does appreciation look like?
  • Awareness:  Here is something of note that can be appreciated.  Spot it.  Take the effort to recognise it.
  • Connection:  Make the effort to offer your comments.
  • Be specific:  What is it you like or dislike?  What criteria are you using?  How does this compare with other examples you have seen?
  • How does it make you feel?  Emotional response is, for me, the key factor in my appreciation of art, theatre, film, food or an event.
  • Dialogue:  Appreciation is not a one way street, it is an opportunity to explore with others the reasons for the feelings it evokes.

How was this blog?  Alright?