Something to Look At: The Importance of Beauty in Your College Dorm

Beautiful Things to Look At

I’ll be a senior in college next year. Over the years, I’ve tried many ways to maintain a positive attitude and be productive. Of course, in today’s age, that can be a profound challenge. The smartphone, for all its uses, provides endless distractions at the tip of your fingers, all of which are relegated to a digital space completely apart from reality.

 Sure, these things have their beginnings in reality — someone, however approximate, played a role in the creation of the content you find on your phone. Even an AI needs to be designed by someone. But there’s something missing to that content — it’s all held in your screen, and really only one person can appreciate what’s on that screen. The smartphone has a way of taking us away from the world around us and isolating us in an endless feed of content, most of which is designed to hold your attention and keep you on your phone. That kills productivity and joy to say the least.

My detachment from my phone — still a work in progress to tell the truth — has been helped significantly in giving myself new things to pay attention to — things of substance. My freshman year walls weren’t bare, but there were pop culture posters and sticky note reminders than anything I really enjoyed looking at. The posters were fine, but they didn’t inspire me at all; they just reminded me of one thing or another I enjoyed. It wasn’t until I rooted through a box of mementos and found small statuettes of Mary, Joseph, and Peter that I felt something worthwhile began to take up some space in my room.

Immediately, whenever I prayed, felt myself needing consolation, or was distracted, my eyes came to rest on these things. The Virgen de Guadalupe, her head inclined and hands clasped, the light of Heaven emanating from behind her, she became a source of peace in my room. I could ground myself by contemplating and looking at this representation of her, or saying a prayer with a tangible reminder of one of Heaven’s greatest intercessors before me—not praying to her, mind you, but contemplating her saintly beauty and quietly invoking her intercession that I may receive the grace I needed from God above to do what I needed to; to feel at peace.

Later that year, my birthday rolled around, and my godmother sent me a metal Celtic cross — green, gold, and red, ornate detailing rising from the main body of the cross. It was beautiful and I mounted it above my desk. Even today I look at it. When I pray my Rosary, need guidance, or even zone out, it has become another place for my eyes to rest. I feel peace in examining these pieces. They remind me of my Creed, of Heaven, of peace. The world, as it so often is, find itself wrapped up in contention, anger, and anxiety. It’s frightening, and that can destroy our peace. College can add all the more stress as students work towards their degree through readings, assignments, and the horizon of full-fledged adulthood approaching. Finding ways to be at peace is essential to move forward joyfully and productively in those settings.

Rather than default to getting on my phone, wasting time on mindless scrolling—social media, headlines, whichever else—I intentionally visit these places of peace in my room. It’s become habit lately. Over the last three years of my college career, I’ve accrued more statuettes, wall hangings, and the like—not just of the Faith, either. I put up a poster of Rudyard Kipling’s If, and several prints of fine art from a local museum. They all bring their own peace to my room, even when there’s no particular strife. Their mere presence has cultivated my living space into somewhere rejuvenating—they bring beauty. It’s not a facsimile of the thing, and it’s not some baser representation of beauty; these are real reminders of the world God created, the life following this one, and the capabilities of man to make beautiful things. Not only that, my friends can look at them when they visit me. Rather than scroll through the natural lulls of conversation, we can look at something instead, and to share in beauty is a great thing indeed. Do yourself a favor, get yourself something nice — something real — to look at. You’ll get a lot of good from it.