RSS Discovering Beauty

  • Scale back rhetoric on LNG May 15, 2018
    Agreed, the LNG plant will not add to the area’s esthetic beauty. It’s pretty hard to compete with mother nature. And yes there are some inherent ... LNG tanks with no catastrophic consequences. The t...
  • The Water is Wide: An Analysis of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford as ideal Modern Tragedy June 8, 2017
    The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford is a motion picture that was ... It is as if the film has declared itself: the alienated characters violently refute both their beauty and th...
  • What Does Having an Intuition Feel Like? September 10, 2016
    An intuitive nature is a double-edged sword ... hidden trove of Answers To Everything has come together is the source of all esthetic awe in humans. I believe that the truth that is out there is coded ...
  • Time on Their Hands: Scott Burton on Richard Serra and Bruce Nauman’s Durational Art, in 1968 October 16, 2015
    Esthetic choice—in this case, as in Robert Morris’ mirrored cubes, involving the appearance of the work’s surface—is shunned. This is not just a new version of “truth to materials ... it subverts the ...
  • Truth or Beauty? Hold onto both. March 3, 2013
    He accuses many scientists of taking too esthetic an approach to science ... physicists like to quote the poets Keats (“beauty is truth, truth beauty”) or Blake on the subject of nature’s “fearful sym...
  • De Palma's Mission to Mars; Erin Brockovich Is Julia, All The Time August 20, 2012
    He emphasizes individual temperament but the characters' fascinatingly detailed nature ... for beauty and independent meaning. These two films redeem Brit working-class comedy and the sci-fi flick and ...
  • What is truth? Our 'best guess' in a pluralistic world April 14, 2012
    A Frank and Ernest cartoon captured the difficulty of figuring out the nature of truth ... had a similar esthetic approach. He believed beauty, goodness and truth were real universal ideals. They lure...
  • OF 20TH-CENTURY ART February 3, 2010
    Duchampian avant-gardism repudiated beauty -- Newman thought that modern art sacrificed physical beauty (sentimental) to "metaphysical" truth ... of esthetic Disinterestedness," Signs of Psyche in Mod...
  • Repost: The Tragedy of Saartje Baartman May 27, 2009
    Despite her intelligence and talent with languages she was treated as a sideshow attraction, considered to be the antithesis of the European standard of beauty by scholars and ... of” her to Heindrich ...
  • The Tragedy of Saartje Baartman February 26, 2009
    Better known as the “Hottentot Venus”, Baartman was a celebrity in Europe known for being the antithesis of the European concept of beauty. She was a dark-skinned ... of” her to Heindrich Cezar. In tr...

Help Make the Laughing Heart Guide More Intelligent, Interactive and Personalized

Imagine if you could have your own personal intelligent guide dedicated to helping you, your friends, organization, or community cultivate and apply Laughing Heart whenever it can be most beneficial in the world:

  • A resource to develop steadiness and balance in hard times.
  • A trusted friend to guide you toward wise decisions.
  • A platform to connect you with interesting new friends and colleagues who share your passions.
  • A new way of learning and discovering surprising connections among seemingly unrelated domains of knowledge.
  • An immediate means to cascade acts of kindness and generosity in the world.
  • As many other ways as you can imagine and innovate to bring Laughing Heart into the world.

For Benefactors and Sponsors of the Laughing Heart App Initiative

Initial Donation Goal For This Project is $50,000. Use of Funds: To Build, Test, and Promote the Laughing Heart Intelligent Guide App in 2017. Donations of any amount you can afford are gratefully welcome. Please make your contribution directly to "Alliances for Discovery" via check or Paypal below, or if you prefer, to the The Santa Barbara Foundation earmarked for the Laughing Heart Initiative. All Santa Barbara residents have a lifetime free membership.

Charter Sponsor Packages

Springs of Amethysts - $100

  • Public Recognition as a Laughing Heart Charter Sponsor

Rivulets of Moonstones - $500

  • Amethysts awards plus:
  • Signed copy of Julian Gresser Piloting Through Chaos—The Explorers Mind(2013)
  • 5 free copies of the Intelligent Guide with one year memberships

Sparkles of Opal - $1K

  • All of Amethyst and Moonstone awards plus
  • 10 free copies of the Intelligent Guide with one year memberships
  • Public lecture, webinar, or other program in your honor
  • 3 signed copies of Julian Gresser Piloting Through Chaos—The Explorers Mind(2013)

Fountains of Pearls - $5K

  • All of Amethyst, Moonstone, and Opal awards plus:
  • Designation of favorite cause for Paying Forward in Laughing Heart Launch Celebration
  • Three (3)public lectures on Laughing Heart with attribution to benefactor
  • 5 signed copies of Julian Gresser Piloting Through Chaos—The Explorers Mind(2013)

Jade Eddies of Laughing Hearts - $10K

  • Amethysts, Moonstone, Opal, and Pearl awards, plus:
  • Specially published “smart” book celebrating charter sponsors and their contributions, updated quarterly.
  • Prominent visibility as a Charter Jade Sponsor on the Vital Santa Barbara web site and within the Laughing Heart Network
  • Bi-annual ½ day Laughing Heart Discovery Seminarsat office or transferable as a gift to favorite causes.

Sapphire Brooks of Laughing Hearts - $25K

  • All of Amethyst, Moonstone, Opal, Pearl, and Jade awards plus:
  • Two (2) Bi-annual ½ day Laughing Heart Discovery Seminarsat office or transferable as a gift to your favorite cause.
  • Free advertising as sponsor for Laughing Heart TV SBseries and public acknowledgement at Laughing Heart Community Workshop hosted by the Santa Barbara Center on Lifelong Learning.
  • Promotion and paying forward empowerment for three (3) causes of importance to Charter Sponsor.

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Ruby Streams of Laughing Hearts - $35K

  • All of the Amethyst, Moonstone, Opal, Pearl, Jade, and Sapphire awards plus:
  • 10 hours of dedicated free consulting time to community causes of highest priority to sponsor
  • One full day (1) training program with materials for organization of choice to Charter Sponsor.
  • Special prize award to designated cause of choice

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Diamond Rivers of Laughing Hearts - $50K

  • All of Amethyst, Moonstone, Opal, Sapphire, Ruby awards plus:
  • Two full day (1) training programs with materials for organizations of choice to Charter Sponsor.
  • Matching grants to designated organizations of choice any time within three years after release of Version 1.0 of the Intelligent, Interactive, Personalized Guide.

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The Laughing Heart Fund

The Laughing Heart Initiative is establishing a special Fund in collaboration with visionary philanthropists, corporations, and foundations to direct new sources of funding and other forms of support to causes and organizations that are applying Laughing Heart principles to relieve human suffering in all its manifestations. The goal of the Fund is to create compounding beneficial leverage by encouraging effective collaborative among receipts to maximize Laughing Heart Advantage for the largest number of beneficiaries. Financial and other support will be available through:

  • Special prizes
  • Direct Grants
  • Joint financing
  • Mobilizing volunteers and paying forward initiatives to designated beneficiaries
  • Celebrations
  • Client Co-branding
  • Other contributions in kind
  • Support for local communities


Move #3
Discovering Beauty



What if Beauty starts to appear in your life at every moment…even in the most improbable places and circumstances?

Just note three Beauty points in this day, pause and go inside, and ask:

How does it feel?

Beauty reveals itself by hints in our ordinary life, in nothing special. Laughing Heart cultivates this openness and deepening of perception.

Author’s commentary

Hint # 1: “I visited and returned; it was nothing special. Mount Ro veiled in misty rain; the Sekko River at high tide.” (Zenrinkushu)
Hint # 2: “Legends say that hummingbirds float free of time, carrying our hopes for love, joy and celebration. Hummingbirds open our eyes to the wonder of the world and inspire us to open our hearts to loved ones and friends. Like a hummingbird, we aspire to hover and to savor each moment as it passes, embrace all that life has to offer and to celebrate the joy of everyday. The hummingbird’s delicate grace reminds us that life is rich, beauty is everywhere, every personal connection has meaning and that laughter is life’s sweetest creation.” (Papyrus)
Hint # 3: Begin what you want to do now. We are not living in eternity. We only have this moment, sparkling like a star in our hand – and melting like a snowflake. (Francis Bacon Sr)

For a few moments….

Arleen Auger. Softly Sweet in Lydian Measures (Alexander’s Feast)
Arleen Auger. Care Selve Atalanta. Handel.

Emotive Reaction Range? Hints: Awe, wonder, humility, mystery, grandeur, connectedness, bliss, overwhelmed, nurturing, grateful/gratitude, healing

  1. Angela Marasco Gresser

    Julian, I believe this lovely poem by Seamus Heaney captures some of the beauty of Laughing Heart.


    By Seamus Heaney

    And some time make the time to drive out west
    Into County Clare, along the Flaggy Shore,
    In September or October, when the wind
    And the light are working off each other
    So that the ocean on one side is wild
    With foam and glitter, and inland among stones
    The surface of a slate-grey lake is lit
    By the earthed lightning of a flock of swans,
    Their feathers roughed and ruffling, white on white,
    Their fully grown headstrong-looking heads
    Tucked or cresting or busy underwater.
    Useless to think you’ll park and capture it
    More thoroughly. You are neither here nor there,
    A hurry through which known and strange things pass
    As big soft buffetings come at the car sideways
    And catch the heart off guard and blow it open.

    JG Response:

    Thank you, Angela, and in reply here is the living voice of his countryman, William Butler Yeats, now dead these 68 years.

  2. Beauty in Nature

    Our primary connection to Beauty is through Nature, and our sense of awe and wonder is likely unchanged since the dawn of our species. Indigenous peoples retain this living, immediate connection with Beauty. The Navajo, for example, have a special ceremony called the “Beauty Way,” which is designed to restore balance and harmony by reestablishing the link to the Natural World.

    With dew about my feet may I walk
    With beauty before me may I walk
    With beauty behind me may I walk
    With beauty above me may I walk
    In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk
    In old age, wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk
    It is finished in beauty
    It is finished in beauty.

  3. To: Simon Fox, Director, Adventures in Caring
    From: Julian Gresser

    So Small a Time but in that small most greatly lived–A Case Report

    Date: June 13, 2017

    Dear Simon,

    I thought I would send this note as a case report rather than simply a write Comment to invite further exploration together.

    The essential point of this story is expressed in the closing lines of Henry V:
    “Small time, but in that small most greatly lived.”

    I spoke on Sunday with an old friend whose wife has advanced Alzheimer’s. The disease has been advancing rapidly downward since 2013 when she was first diagnosed, although he believes the first signs were evident years before. During the past four years he has been the sole caregiver. He is 85. The family is of modest means. Here is his story.

    JG: I can’t imagine how you cope.

    Friend: It hasn’t been easy, but you learn to do it. I discovered one day that I was very angry; I hadn’t noticed it. I had simply buried my anger in my struggle and sadness. She asks me fifty times a day who I am and who she is; I try to answer. How does a person cope with this?

    JG: You indicated you have discovered something important regarding this question. Please tell me.

    Friend: The first discovery I made was that I had to accept the situation and work with it. Simply to let go, not to hold on to this rage or my stories of how we once were, or what might have or could have been.

    Recently we have had a blessing. Our daughter has come to live with us and that has helped a lot. We share the tasks. I coming to appreciate little, ordinary things, like going shopping or mowing the lawn…things I took for granted before, I now welcome them; but not only as a refuge from the situation. They are causing me to look around and to discover all manner of little things: the great variety of goods on the shelves in the super market, each carrying its own story, for example; or the colors of the leaves as I mow, or the different trees outside my window; or the distinctive songs of birds. Did I notice these things with such intensity before?

    JG: I am touched by what you are telling me. It seems even that though your life has become very limited and circumscribed, it is has become richer in the ways you are describing.

    Friend (laughing): Yes, you might say that.

    JG: In Laughing Heart we have been discussing a “move” entitled, “Discovering Beauty.” One of the stretch points of this exploration is to be open to discovering Beauty in strange and improbable circumstances. Do you find Beauty in this expanded sense in your life these days?

    Friend: Very much so. Not in every situation, of course, but these days I am definitely looking around– at old cars, leaves, people I meet when I go out. Beauty is really everywhere, but we don’t perceive it, it seems, because we may be too preoccupied in our daily lives, too busy to see it. I also try to take time to go on the Internet and to continue learning about electronics which was my trade to keep up a bit. I do my best to stay engaged. It is fun.

    JG: It seems to me there is a very deep and beautiful insight here: The pageant in all our lives has a common end. It is pre-determined. Some people’s theatre of action is very large, in volume at least; they have great wealth, enormous possibility and scope; for others, their range is limited and their options, very small. Yet, perhaps it is not the breadth of the stage nor the volume of the options that matters in the end. One key, it seems to me, is to find Beauty where you are, as it is given to you, and as Shakespeare teaches us, and in this small most greatly live.

    Friend: Yes, I agree with you and him.

    JG: And it seems there is other subtle dimension: micro moves. It doesn’t seem to take much effort to escape from hell, at least for a few moments. The smallest move toward Beauty, enhanced vitality, and love appear to be sufficient to cause an energetic shift in perception. I am deeply grateful to you for helping me see this.

    Friend: I do feel my life is more stable now, and I am very grateful that my daughter is here with me to share such discoveries.

  4. “Even the general took off his armor to gaze at our peonies.” Kikaku haiku (Japanese: 宝井其角; 1661–1707)

  5. Some Reflections on Beauty, Heart, and Original Face

    I woke early in the morning last week with the sense of floating inside two of the most beautiful songs I know. The first was from Gilbert and Sullivan’s Pirates of Penzance, “Ah, leave me not to pine alone,” sung especially tenderly by the English soprano Valerie Masterson.

    The second was Fischer-Dieskau performing the aria “Mache dich, mein Herz, rein”(“make me clean, my heart, from sin”) from J.S. Bach’s St. Mathew Passion, also the theme song from the movie, The Talented Mr. Ripley.
    The first is about romantic love; the second concerns love of God.

    The day before I had posted a note on the Zen koan, “Original Face,” (, and so it was natural in my morning reverie to connect the two, musing upon the question, “What might be the relationship between Beauty, Love, and our Original Face?

    On a literal level the koan is inviting us to explore the ostensibly preposterous question of who we are, or might be, prior to our birth or after our death. For me the deeper, more fundamental question is who are we anyway, at this exact moment, putting aside past or future? This is the essential question to which many koans point.

    And here, at least for me, the inquiry around Love, Beauty, and Heart begins to get really interesting. Might it be possible that Love and Beauty are not only keys to a vital and noble life, but also, in their special way, help us to experience a kind of momentary immortality?
    Our greatest poets appear to have the power to perceive and to express their impression of this alternative reality. Here are two famous examples.

    “When old age shall this generation waste,
    Thou shalt remain, in midst of other woe
    Than ours, a friend to man, to whom thou say’st,
    “Beauty is truth, truth beauty,—that is all
    Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
    (Keats, Ode a Grecian Urn–
    Shall I compare thee to a summer’s day?
    Thou art more lovely and more temperate.
    Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May,
    And summer’s lease hath all too short a date.
    Sometime too hot the eye of heaven shines,
    And often is his gold complexion dimmed;
    And every fair from fair sometime declines,
    By chance, or nature’s changing course, untrimmed;
    But thy eternal summer shall not fade,
    Nor lose possession of that fair thou ow’st,
    Nor shall death brag thou wand’rest in his shade,
    When in eternal lines to Time thou grow’st.
    So long as men can breathe, or eyes can see,
    So long lives this, and this gives life to thee.
    William Shakespeare, Sonnet 18.

  6. Beauty as an Antidote to Loneliness and Destitution

    As I reflect upon the discovery (in an above note) of my friend who is caring for his aged wife with Alzheimer’s—that a small and ordinary moment in time can contain a vast treasure of beauty—I recall Goethe’s most famous line from Faust: “When to the moment I say, “Stay awhile! You are so lovely.” Verweile doch, du bist so schön. ( This insight alone seems sufficient.

    And yet, might it be possible to take this realization one step deeper? Here is the 10th koan from the Zen classic, the Gateless Gate (Mumonkan), compiled in the early 13th century by the Zen master Mumon Ekai. As with many koans it is presented as a conversation between a senior teacher and a monk. We are invited, intimately, into the very moment of the latter’s discovery. (
    Case 10: Seizei Is Utterly Destitute (清税弧貧)

    Seizei said to Sõzan, “Seizei is utterly alone and destitute.
    Will you give him support?”
    Sõzan called out, “Seizei!”
    Seizei responded, “Yes, sir!”
    Sõzan said, “You have finished three cups of the finest Haku wine of China, and still you say you have not yet moistened your lips!”

    The reader may find the explanation of this case by my friend and teacher Yamada Koun especially useful.
    Yamada Koun–;

  7. Intertidal Connections of Adversity, Beauty, and Chance

    Extraordinary things can happen when we open our heart to beauty, especially around adversity and chance.

    My friend, Ruth, a physician recalls one evening as a resident when she was alone with a cancer patient– no nurses, interns, or residents anywhere—and the patient opened her eyes and said, “I will not be here tomorrow.” It was a deeply intimate, human moment. Just the two of them. And the next day the patient died.

    And then there is the very public case of the homeless man who extended his great heart—because it was all he had—to the victims of the Manchester bombing because “I did not want them to die alone,” he said.

    It seems catastrophe tears a space in our lives for beauty to enter. It was in the darkest place in his life when he was thrown into prison and wrongly accused of theft that the goldsmith/sculptor, Benvenuto Cellini, one of the Renaissance’s great geniuses, had a beatific vision of God and the angels in heaven that accompanied him for the rest of his life. *
    The psychologist Viktor Frankl recounts in Man’s Search for Meaning* how through the slits of the cattle car in which he was being transported to Auschwitz he was able to view the beauty of the Alps, and this image sustained him through the horrors of what was to come. We have a similar account by the French writer Jacques Lusseyran, in Let There Be Light in which he writes that the radiance of love enabled him to survive when thousands of his fellow countrymen perished in this same hellish place. *
    The writer Rebecca Solnit in A Paradise Built in Hell* provides compelling evidence against the common belief held by many public authorities that natural disasters—earthquake, fires, hurricanes, and typhoons—invite vandalism, arson, and mayhem, when she demonstrates from the San Francisco fire to Katrina just the opposite: great calamity usually brings out the best in us. And certainly, as Peggy Noonan* and others are daily reporting in the evening news, this same basic pattern is widely evident in unrecognized acts of generosity and kindness by the victims of hurricanes Harvey and Irma toward one another and by the local community and nation toward them. And the beauty of an eclipse stops all of us in our tracks. *

    Why are acts of kindness, or paying forward, so easy and natural during disasters but come haltingly and seem somehow contrived during our regular lives?

    I believe one principal reason is the malady of busy-ness. We are so busy clicking away that our senses and mind are dulled, our hearts contract, and we no longer want, or have time to pause and experience the suffering, and the beauty in life.

    But there is some good news: It is very easy to interrupt this habit. All it requires as Brother David Steindl-Rast advises is to Stop, Look, and Go*—to pause, look around, and go wherever this singular, unique, extraordinary moment takes us. Any moment, every moment brings this ray of light. It is our sanctuary.
    *Benvenuto Cellini, Autobiography, especially the translation by John Bull.

    *Viktor E. Frankl, Man’s Search for Meaning.,204,203,200_.jpg&imgrefurl=

    *Jacques Lusseyran, And There Was Light

    *Rebecca Solnit, A Paradise Built in Hell

    Jon Kabat Zinn, Full Catastophe Living

    Peggy Noonan, “For a Day Our Political Troubles Were Eclipsed” WSJ August 26-267, 2017 A 13

    Brother David Steindl-Rast in grateful living

  8. Discovering Beauty in Nothing Special

    We can expand Laughing Heart by learning to discover Beauty in ordinary things, or in doing nothing special. In Italian this is called “dolce far niente,” or the sweetness of doing nothing. It is when we can savor the moment.

    There is a traditional Chinese poem that expresses this fleeting quality of our unique individual life:
    “I went there and returned… It was nothing special:
    Mount Lu in misty rain; the River Che at high tide.”

  9. Invoking the Past
    One of the casualties of our overly busy world is the Past. Yet, if we pause for even a moment we can invoke the Past in all its depth and glory. It comes to us, readily. Here is perhaps the first recording of Silent Worship otherwise known as “Did you not hear my lady” from Handel’s 1728 opera Tolomeo, introduced to me on this Thanksgiving Day by my brother, Ion, now in his 89th year.
    The lyrics were adapted by Arthur Somervell, a century after Jane Austen’s song written hand books. (

    “Did you not hear My Lady
    Go down the garden singing
    Blackbird and thrush were silent
    To hear the alleys ringing.

    Oh saw you not My Lady
    Out in the garden there
    Shaming the rose and lily
    For she is twice as fair.

    Though I am nothing to her
    Though she must rarely look at me
    And though I could never woo her
    I love her till I die.

    Surely you heard My Lady
    Go down the garden singing
    Silencing all the songbirds
    And setting the alleys ringing.

    But surely you see My Lady
    Out in the garden there
    Rivaling the glittering sunshine
    With a glory of golden hair.”
    Aria from Tolomeo (Italian & Translation)
    Non lo dirò col labbro
    Non lo dirò col labbro
    Che tanto ardir non ha.
    Forse con le faville
    Dell’avide pupille,
    Per dir come tutt’ardo,
    Lo sguardo parlera
    Non lo dirò col labbro
    Che tanto ardir non ha.
    I will not say it with my lips
    Which have not that courage;
    Perhaps the sparks
    Of my burning eyes,
    Revealing my passion,
    My glance will speak.]

  10. I recently visited the historic Green-wood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. I had heard a great deal about the cemetery and I wanted to capture some autumn foliage. It was a very interesting and somewhat surreal experience. One might ask the question, who would visit a cemetery if you were not related to someone buried there? Yet there was life and beauty and history in this final resting place. In fact, to me it was more of an 439 acre arboretum which happens to have headstones and mausoleums scattered about. Grern-wood is filled with a variety of large trees, many of which are 150+ years old. Some were draped in color and others had already shed their leaves. There was interesting architecture as well. I believe beauty can be found anywhere if we are willing to be open and seek for it. I found some at Green-wood. So, I walked,thought, stopped, looked, and then moved along.

  11. Socrates’ Prayer:

    Beloved Pan, and all ye other gods who haunt this place,
    Grant me the beauty of the inward spirit
    And may the outer and inner man be as one.
    5th century BC
    (translated by Gisela Kahn Gresser)

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