Aesthetic appreciation is my “religion”

Shasa Sartin, Editor-in-Chief

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I am currently in the REL485: “Religion, Violence, and Terrorism” course, taught by Associate Professor of Religion Todd Green on Monday nights. At 8:00 a.m. on Tuesday I go to the REL120 course titled “Religion: Curse or Blessing?” taught by Professor of Religion Guy Nave. For the past two weeks in both courses we have been discussing the validity or lack thereof of the term “religion” as it is currently used. This question is entrenched in semantics because of very real implications of this term’s communally understood definition.

The idea that religions are cultural practices that strictly follow something “transcendental” or “of the divine” excludes traditions that many have seen followed with as much piety as devout Catholics: Marxism, nationalism, and The Lord of the Rings, to name a few examples. By opening up the possibility for significant aspects of life that are not pertaining to anything theistic1 or supernatural, there is freedom to dictate these as a “religion” if we so please.

Theologian Paul Tillich is known for his conceptualization of religion as holding an “ultimate concern.” This is the definition of religion that I find myself most comfortable with and intrigued by, if I am ascribing to any definition in the first place. What is the thing in your life that holds the spotlight? Which has the most importance? What is the Beyoncé among the other three Destiny’s Child2 members?

Well, my ultimate concern is looking, feeling, and smelling good. At the center of my mind is a compulsive need to feel balanced, put together, comfortable, and beautiful: that’s my Beyoncé. If I am utilizing Tillich’s definition, then my aesthetic appreciation is my religion.

I make so many of my decisions surrounding this idealized state of being — experiencing assurance that I, my belongings, and my surroundings are beautiful and complementary to each other. There have been plenty of times that I have abstained from attending a party because I didn’t have the right outfit or because my hair wouldn’t cooperate in the exact way I want it to. I literally would rather give up a fun night out than look less-than-great and feel uncomfortable in public. Similarly, some people would rather give up an interpersonal orgasm3 than have pre-marital sex and disgrace a religious teaching that holds importance to them.

In either aforementioned case, there is something sacred about the commitment being made to upholding a value. It is very important to some that they consummate their marriage with their partner, and they experience this unity together. Just as it is very important to me that I feel comfortable in my physical appearance because I have a deep-seated appreciation for harmony.

This tenet is present throughout all aspects of my life. If I am feeling sad and introspective one day I will wear clothes that are tan, beige, brown, muted shades of green, and black. I will then listen to my “TrapMoneyBenny! This S*** Got Me in My Feelings!”4 playlist and mope around campus looking like I am on the verge of tears. I am that committed to experiencing my life in a united manner. I have even been known to purchase beverages that I understand to have an abstracted color scheme or mood that coordinates with my look and general mood of the day5.

Something I have really enjoyed about my religion courses this semester is this opportunity to include high levels of nuance into discussion of what “religion” is. By theorizing that commitments to entities or belief systems outside of theistic ones, a lot can be learned.

Opinions expressed in columns and letters are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of Chips or organizations with which the author(s) are associated.


1Theistic is defined as something relating to a belief in a God or multiple gods.

2 Destiny’s Child was an iconic girl group in the late 1990’s and early 2000’s in which Beyoncé was the breakout star. Use of “the Beyoncé” can be found in other contexts. For example, there are discussions where Quavo is dubbed “the Beyoncé” of the rap trio Migos.

3 Nothing wrong with intrapersonal orgasms! Get it how you live.

4 The title of this playlist is the opening lyric from Drake’s 2018 summer hit “In My Feelings” from the album Scorpion. Interestingly enough it is an upbeat-party song. Oh well, I still use it as the title for one of my crying playlists and who’s going to stop me?

5 If I am wearing an outfit with a lot of greens and beiges, for example, I may choose a matcha green tea latte to drink. I also used to have a variety of reusable coffee mugs in various colors/materials to match my outfits before I lost them all.

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