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Climate Change & Climate Science
Diane Shisk &
Janet Kabue
January 20 & 21

The Uses of Beauty and Order [1]

by Harvey Jackins

As the successes of Re-evaluation Counseling have revealed more and more of the fundamental nature of human beings, it has also become increasingly clear that a human being’s basic role is the loving mastery of the environment. Theories which picture the human being as at bay before a hostile universe actually reflect the past fears of isolated groups of human beings in danger from weather, disease or other hostile forces. Theories which propose the human role to be one of “adjustment” to the environment reflect undeveloped technologies of the past and usually conceal some rationalized appeal to oppressed people to accept social oppression.

Our past attitudes and actions toward the environment have been distorted and warped by the load of distress recordings that have burdened human beings ever since they became human. Yet even so, the human power to dominate the environment has shown itself clearly. Occasionally this power has manifested itself in positive activities (the clearing of stream channels, the terracing of mountain slopes) but more commonly this great capacity has evidenced itself in destruction (the extinction of large mammals, from the wooly mammoth to the blue whale, the creations of deserts such as the Sahara, and the pollution of soil, air and water as in the modern USA.).

There seem to be no limits to our mastery of the environment, but this mastery should not be expressed in exploitation or degradation. These are caused by the effects of distress patterns.


For many years now we have had the opportunity to observe in detail the shifts in attitude and orientation made by human beings who have engaged in Re-evaluation Counseling. Such counseling consists of the systematic removal of the distress patterns which have occluded and distorted the intelligence of all human beings until now. Experience over many years has made abundantly clear that an unenforced, undistressed, knowledgeable human being’s attitude and role toward the environment would be loving mastery.


There are many reasons for thoughtful care of our environment. We are absolutely dependent on our planet for habitation, support and nurture. We are able to exist only because there are continents, oceans, and atmosphere. Our lives depend on the thin film of life that covers the surface of our world.

The effects of past careless use and current mismanagement of the splendid resources of the earth are confronting us in our poisoned air, polluted water, and exhausted resources. Our actual survival necessitates clear thinking on the part of all human beings about these matters.


At the present time we are witnessing and participating in a growing awareness that the care and tending of our lovely “spaceship garden” must become an ever-present concern in everything we do, as individuals and as a society.

The environmental crisis is forcing us to recognize our own role as the masters of the universe. Painful emotional experiences in the human past have perpetuated themselves as distress recordings that tell us we are helpless victims before a hostile environment. These myths are currently being dissipated by the reality of the overwhelming control and domination of the entire globe by our species.

A few years from now we will undoubtedly see detailed recycling of every resource of the earth which we touch. No air will be used without being returned to the atmosphere in good condition. Water taken from aquifer or stream will be returned pure. No bit of metal, wood, rock, or soil will be used without being restored to a healthy and useful condition after our use of it. The sewage and garbage of the future will be composted as fertilizer and humus.

Our responsibility for the whole of the universe is important but will be discussed in detail elsewhere.


I address here the familiar area of housekeeping—the attention to our immediate daily environments reaching from our inner skins out for a few hundred feet. Because this close-at-hand area is where human distress patterns have “come home to roost,” have “fouled our nests,” we will not be able to come to grips well with the totality of our environment until we have achieved clear understanding of a program for and success in moving on the housekeeping area which lies close at hand.

The application of loving mastery to each person’s immediate environment, to the details of everyday living, is important to one’s own rate of progress toward being fully rational. It can be crucial toward making that time of progress rewarding in itself, not just a period of effort sustained by a hope of a rewarding future.


Our culture has rigidly urged “good habits” of housekeeping upon us, but it has not offered us meaningful reasons or explanations of their importance. The results have been that, except for rare individuals who have intuitively reached an understanding of their role in this regard, most of the population function as compulsive messmakers, or compulsive cleaner-uppers with some individuals alternating between the two roles. Because we have not understood the reasons for it, the care of our immediate environment has come to be regarded as a chore, or as a duty at best, to be postponed or avoided if possible.

All of us have been urged to keep our skins clean, our hair trimmed and well arranged, our teeth brushed, our shoes polished, our clothes clean and pressed. We have been urged to wear attractive clothing, to keep the floor swept, the ring out of the bathtub, the dishes washed, the windows cleaned, the lawn trimmed, the sidewalk swept, and such other indications of a well-cared-for environment. We have not been helped to understand why these things matter.

We can take a fresh look at these reasons from the standpoint of Re-evaluation Counseling, that is, from our understanding of the difference between the creative intelligent behavior of the inherent human being and the rigid uncreative behavior of the distress patterns which afflict the human being (from distress experiences which have not been thoroughly discharged). It is then possible to look at our care of the environment with understanding and insight and to integrate our functioning in this regard with overall joyful and creative living.


Why care for the beauty and order of our surroundings?

The cared-for environment is safer. (Spilled water or grease which is not wiped up can do real injury to a skidding human being.)

The cared-for environment is rewarding. Work, that essential function of the human being, is more productive and satisfying in a well-cared-for environment. (The work bench whose tools and materials are in order, clean, and sharp enables the serious worker or the hobbyist to accomplish far more in a given time.)

The cared-for environment is supportive. (Sewage and garbage, composted and returned to the land, provide rich sustenance for human beings and other living things. Unmanaged, they make our surroundings intolerable.)

The cared-for environment is aesthetically satisfying. This is important because of its broad, complex, and profound effects upon our individual and group ability to function. Let us examine this in more detail.

We are in continual interaction with the environment. Not only do we give signals out to it and continuously take action affecting it, but signals come back to us from it. The environment communicates to us through many channels. These signals say a great deal to us about ourselves even if we are usually unaware of the process.

The trim, clean, well-ordered, and well-tended environment tells us that we are functioning well. It tells us with a thousand signals that we are beneficent, intelligent, caring, effective and able persons. The immediate environment acts as if it were a mirror. If it reflects thoughtfulness, intelligence, skill, and achievement, then we are continually validated. We receive an accurate picture of our real human selves.

If the environment around us is disordered, dirty, and disorganized, unkempt, unrepaired, and ugly, then the messages from it tend to restimulate and confirm negative thoughts and feelings about ourselves which we have had recorded upon us by the invalidating experiences of our distressed past. If our socks and skin are unwashed, our hair uncombed, if the floor is unswept, if our “dishes are dirty and some in the bed,” then it is very difficult for us to get a clear picture of our real nature. It will remain difficult until we have made the effort to clean up the environment and restore it to functioning order.

Personal neatness and clean clothes are signals to ourselves that we care about us, that we regard ourselves as deserving of appreciation and good treatment. Care about our food, not in pattern terms that we “deserve” one more sweet or overindulgence in rich foods, but in terms of the finest nourishment of just the right amount, is appreciation of the beautiful bodies through which our elegant minds operate. Exercise and rest too, so neglected in our United States culture, are part of care for ourselves.


Such care is real self-appreciation. This is quite different from commercially restimulated urges to use cosmetics to paint screens over ourselves. We may intend to hide our patterned negative feelings about ourselves, but the result is that we hide what we really look like. We drench ourselves with perfumes in embarrassment and apology for our own naturally attractive human smell.


Poverty is a powerful negative force towards disorder and discouragement. The destruction of life in modern ghettos and slums is in large part a function of littered streets, filthy hallways and disintegrating dwellings. If well-to-do but thoughtless people would criticize the slum-dwellers’ failure to improve their environment, they need only live in such an environment for a few weeks to realize the terrible weight of hopelessness and discouragement that oppresses residents there. For the individual slum-dweller, however, poverty must not become an excuse to succumb to the pressures of discouragement and give up on improving the environment. There are many examples of cultures where neatness, cleanliness and fastidious care of the environment have been accomplished in spite of terrible poverty by agreement among the members of the population that these values must be maintained. The fight for beauty and order should be persisted with in even the most discouraging surroundings as a weapon for morale and for winning changes.


Slum-dwellers cannot wait passively for a sense of fairness or human responsibility to appear in the halls of government and business and act to move them to decent housing or to renovate the slums around them. It is not the slum-dwellers’ fault that they are in the slums but in the essential nature of human beings it is their responsibility to do something about change. Fierce struggle will undoubtedly be required in many channels, but one of the channels of such struggles is for the means for slum-dwellers themselves to clean up the slums. Direct participation by the slum-dweller in cleaning up conditions will not distract from essential political struggle on other issues but will act to rally and mobilize neighborhood forces. It will make it easier to win important allies from other sections of the population for the larger struggle.


Tolerated messy surroundings not only deceive us about our own natures, they also communicate a false picture of reality as a whole. If we accept being surrounded by messes we are likely to begin taking the universe to be a mess. We are likely to begin to believe that reality is full of contradictions, ugliness, and hopelessness that are not really there at all.

It is not that nature untouched is beautiful while human effects are always ugly. This is not so. The essential beauty and order of the universe comes to us not only in the vast ocean or the untamed forest but it also appears in well-cultivated farm land, in beautiful architecture, or in a comfortable, well-planned kitchen.

The human-managed universe is harmonious when it is human intelligence that is doing the managing. Only that temporary kink in the fabric of the universe, which is the distress pattern afflicting the human, creates disharmonious function in the human being. Only this projects disharmony and ugliness on the human’s surroundings.


If the environment is merely neat, clean, well-scrubbed, and in order, it is not yet a sufficiently clear mirror of our own real natures. Our environment should remind us of our intelligence and our elegance.

The essence of humanness is creativeness, our ability to synthesize new responses. Our environments should always display, in clear view, evidence of human creativity in general and our own creativity in particular.

The leisured class of Golden Age Greece believed that every item of the human environment, every artifact of living, should be beautiful and unique. We see in modern Japan how elegance is sought in simple things, in the ways that rice is cooked, in the spray of flowers for the corner of the poorest room, in the plaited rice straw in which five eggs are tied together for the market.


The rich, creative complexities of music can be part of every human environment. Not only is elaborate hi-fi equipment (or a cheap radio) a powerful tool for keeping these rich signals of human ability before us. Our own whistling and singing are handy and effective weapons against the gloom and discouragement of a restimulative environment. “Whenever I feel afraid . . .  I whistle a happy tune ”

The walls of a dwelling welcome creative and artistic decoration, not only a routine paint job in attractive colors, but also a work of visual art by the inhabitant himself or herself to enjoy and be reassured by.

Many of us have had our skills in visual art so invalidated that we are afraid to even attempt to draw or paint a picture. This fear, of course, will yield to counseling. With discharge we can begin not only to realize but to act on the truth that every human being is gifted artistically, in the visual arts and in all others. In the meantime, it is perfectly possible to take a length of wire and bend it into an interesting shape, then mount this piece of wire sculpture in a prominent position. It’s possible to take some torn pieces of tinted or colored paper and move them about on a sheet of cardboard until the arrangement pleases the arranger, glue them in place and, with such an “abstract collage” mounted on the wall, be continually reminded of one’s own ability to create beauty.

A poem or verse which one has composed belongs in plain sight to be read and looked at. This will be another signal that one is a creative human being and in charge of the environment.

The decor of one’s living space may well include one’s direction against one’s chronic pattern. Such direction will be stated in a positive fashion and should be up-to-date and current.


Variety and change are essential for human existence. So we will paint new pictures, we will write new poems, we will “get out of our ruts” to do new, interesting things. We will explore new ideas continually. We will think new thoughts as part of our resonance with the forever freshly unrolling beauty and order of the universe. One of the uses of that beauty and order and of our contribution to it will be for the enhancement and enrichment of our individual lives.


To care for our environment individually is a necessary but only a beginning step. When we care for our environment and express appreciation and enjoyment of it as a group activity, our mastery enters a new phase, and our enjoyment is multiplied.


When housework and gardening become social activities; when the end of littering and pollution are triumphant campaigns in which the whole population participates; when the planning and construction of a park becomes a people’s project; then we will be close to the functioning of the future. We will be approaching that style of life where each of us enriches and beautifies our surroundings in everything we do.

[1]  First published in 1972 as a pamphlet.

Unlittered woods, an unpolluted stream,

A fresh-swept hearth, one’s body showered clean,

Soil tilled with care, tools in their proper place

Tell the real nature of our human race.

Dirt, smog, pollution, every form of mess,

These speak the presence of acquired distress.

Last modified: 2023-04-15 09:24:12+00