One of the field trips in my Integral Human Development class was to the National Museum of Fine Arts. This trip was meant to feature aesthetic development, one of the forms of well-being. Aesthetics is the appreciation and nature of beauty, in the context of art. Aesthetic engagement can breed emotional connection through the process of creating, doing, and experiencing art. This connectedness has the capacity to bring about meaningful interactions and belongingness in the workplace.
I don’t think that aesthetic well-being is well-developed in our workplace. Since we render accounting, audit and tax compliance services, there are no means to work with creative design or in an artistic way to come up with our reports. I have not thought of any idea which this aspect can be nurtured in a technical services workplace.
I was looking forward to visiting this museum since my friends had recommended going to it. Ever since grade school, I knew I was never into the arts. I was so amazed at how some of my friends could come up with a piece of art. I always knew that all I can draw is a simple house with mountains or the sea or grassland in the background, which is a very common drawing in grade school. I was always so jealous and insecure when it came to this matter since it was never a part of me. I wanted to learn but it’s just that I cannot. That’s why I looked up to my friends who are very talented and skillful in the arts.
During our class visit on June 15, I was struck with amazement at how The Spoliarium was created by Juan Luna. It is a powerful piece thanks to the bloodied bodies of gladiators who fought the Roman oppressors. It is not just a simple piece of art but a dynamic view of the abused Filipinos through the years. It was so powerful that it inspired Jose Rizal to write Noli Me Tangere. The museum was not only about paintings, but also archaeological artifacts and memorabilia. As I said, I was never into appreciating arts. However, I find it astounding to see how these artists have the will and power create their masterpieces.
I realized that even if I’m not into arts, someone like me can develop my aesthetic side through literature or writing. Although it takes a lot of practice to craft good literary output, there is a chance for me to develop this skill. I don’t believe that practice makes perfect — however, practice makes a better outcome. Another realization is that practicing writing means having to read a lot. I have learned that if I read, I gain knowledge from reading and I am not only developing my aesthetic skills, but also my cognitive skills, another dimension of well-being.
Another realization from this experience was the connection of aesthetics to stress. Stress is not an illness but a state that can be a very powerful contributor to illness. Aesthetics can be a way to reduce stress. Organizational stress cripples employees and affects organizations in a major way. Human resource sustainability — that is the health and wellbeing of the workers — is now more than ever in critical focus. Through connecting human resource management, organizational sustainability, aesthetics, and psychology literature, organizational aesthetic practices mediated by emotional and sensory knowledge acquisition may have the capacity to mitigate stress. For example, Google encourages employees to use 20% of company time to create and innovate on their own. This aesthetic program focuses on brainstorming sessions where groups of participants come together, connect, discuss, and debate possible solutions to a problem. This also develops their cognitive skills.
In our firm, there are employees who break down and cry due to intense pressure. The need for competency is a large contributor to pressure in our work. From what I experienced in visiting the National Museum, discovering and exploring something new takes your mind off work. It is the time when you can reflect and get to discover new knowledge. I think that the team or the unit in the office could go out to take their minds off work so stress is released. I think my commitment right now is to help relieve the stress of my colleagues by inviting them to visit the museum or go to a painting session to learn and try something new.
Noellen delos Santos is an MBA student at De La Salle University. This article is part of her reflections on her experiences in the course, Integral Human Development.