Beautiful instruments

I love beautiful instruments.

These are useful tools — like pens, bicycles, guitars, blades, bags, digital devices, user interfaces — designed so well that they disappear in use, becoming extensions of our own being. They are, in Heidegger’s words, ready-to-hand.

But when we shift our awareness to present-at-hand, and contemplate them as objects, we find them aesthetically resonant. They reinforce our sense of value and meaning.

I love beautiful instrumental language. The words are transparent in use, spontaneously conveying meaning without obtrusion, distraction, obfuscation or distortion. When we participate in reality, doing and speaking, the words are part of reality and participate in its realness.

But when we attend to the words themselves, hearing them, seeing them on a page, experiencing them objectively, they are beautiful. The form of the language reinforces our sense of value and meaning.

The words extend our subjectivity and become part of us, but they are also objects that help us feel who we are, and what we care about.

Words, like selves, have subjectivity and objectivity, concavity and convexity, are ready-to-hand or present-at-hand depending on how we let them be for us.

When I sit in my library, among my books, I feel profoundly at home.

I love when people visit and talk with me in this beloved space, lined with books filled with the words of people I love, people I have done my best to incarnate and make immortal through my own share of moral life.

Philosophy is useful poetry.

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