A.P.E.X.: Beauty Will Save the World

The Ask. Ponder. Educate. [X]. lecture on Thursday, Nov. 9, given by award-winning filmmaker John de Graff, was called “The Politics of Beauty.”

De Graaf was raised in the San Francisco area near Yosemite, where he found his passion for beauty in the natural world. When de Graaf was growing up, backpacking became very important. 

“Backpacking taught me what I now think of as “the backpacker’s theory of life”: You don’t need a lot to be happy,” said de Graaf.

According to de Graff, you can be happy simply by having beauty in your life. “Beauty is connected to wellbeing and happiness. Beauty makes people more altruistic,” he said. “It makes them kinder. Beauty could save the world.”

The polarization the United States faced after the 2016 election made de Graaf start thinking about how to reduce the disunity he saw in the country. 

“It came to me that one of the places that we are most united and share a common interest is in beauty,” said de Graaf. “I started to study beauty and discovered that beauty is not just in the eye of the beholder. Beauty is one of the most universal experiences that we all have as human beings.”

With this knowledge in mind, de Graaf created The Happiness Alliance. Their mission is to contribute to the transformation of economies and societies so that the happiness of people, the well-being of communities and the sustainability of ecosystems is the primary aim of governance, enterprise and people. With the use of different studies done to measure where people were the happiest, de Graff and his team found that people are happier when they are in a beautiful place. 

“If we spent some time beautifying communities, we can improve so many areas of life,” said de Graaf. 

Beauty does not have to be a controversial discussion. “We do have this beautiful country. To be patriotic is to protect it,” said de Graaf. “If we can begin talking about beauty, then we can begin to talk about some of the issues that are much harder.”

Leaving the audience with a call to action, de Graaf said, “We must all work together to make America beautiful again.” 

The next A.P.E.X. event will be in 2024. For more information, visit the A.P.E.X. webpage. 

Author: Christina Schweiss
Photographer: Joseph Roberts
Editor: Nick Stein