Have you ever meditated or contemplated the various meanings of the word “appreciation”? That is, the use of the concept as more than a technique to apply as a tool towards success. Not that there is anything wrong with using appreciation in one’s toolkit to get ahead in a career or social setting. What I’m asking about is the concept of appreciation in its pure form.
When not used as a technique, appreciation is a feeling of admiration and gratitude about a particular person or thing. Appreciation begins within the mind as we evaluate the person or object. It is akin to thankfulness but more active.
The first time I really pondered the concept of appreciation was during the required college course of Music Appreciation. The act of learning about the nuts and bolts along with the history of various musical styles, composers, instruments, and the rest, brought about understanding. It was while the professor played a taped section of an unfamiliar opera by Antonio Salieri that understanding the excerpt morphed into appreciation of the piece. This appreciation cemented in place the professor’s lesson about Salieri’s role as the man who instructed Beethoven, Liszt, and Schubert.
The lesson about opera expanded years later when my friend and coworker Paul became a room mate. Paul was a serious opera fan. I learned more about the musical form by osmosis simply by living in proximity to my friend. In other words, there was no getting away from opera at home. Although opera is my least favorite musical form, because of Paul as well as the earlier college course, I can sit through an opera, enjoy it, and appreciate it for what it is. I also appreciate Paul and the music professor.
In this sense, appreciation is a favorable assessment and awareness of a particular form. It is the recognition of the aesthetic value of an opera. Appreciation is the assertive manifestation of gratitude. One is not only grateful for having the person or object in her/his life, but understands and experiences why the gratitude is present. Appreciation is a positive feeling of blissful gratitude in active form.
“Appreciation is a wonderful thing: It makes what is excellent in others belong to us as well.”–Voltaire
Appreciation is one of the easiest mental activities we do. We can mindfully take note of everything around us. A person can go outdoors and notice the sky, the clouds, the plants, and birds. In town, we also see buildings, streets, roads, vehicles, and other people. When we calmly, deliberately observe our surroundings we become grounded and more easily focus ourselves towards living fully.
Appreciation is a relationship between the observer and the observed. Using music appreciation again as an example: The players skillfully perform the opera while the audience takes the performance in. The audience expresses appreciation through applause and shouts of “Bravo!” It is the active interplay that enables mutual appreciation by the players and the audience. This same principle works in other social scenarios, as well.
The act of appreciation is a high form of wisdom because it affirms the presence of good people and things in our lives. Appreciation is a light we can shine to help us navigate through the good times and the difficult parts of our life path.