The beautiful things

“To do the useful thing, to say the courageous thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man’s life.” — T.S. Eliot

Phillip J. Clayton
4 min readJan 2, 2023

The above was copied from a tweet by Carolyn Barclay (@yesnoum)— I am somewhere there, with the beautiful things.

Sitting outside the AC Mariot, Kingston Jamaica.

As I sat outside the hotel lobby, I started thinking about a lot of things… I had left home to have a drink, but being by yourself tends to induce a lot of thinking.

I thought about how I used to rush through life, speak fast, and try to get my thoughts out as quickly as I can, to get to the end of the journey, just moving, and avoiding. But life has a way of slowing you down… I slowed down, I meditate, I try to speak slowly, I try to speak less. I want my words to mean something.

If we could arrive at a place where the ending is not the motivation for doing anything, the results are not what drives us to achieve. Instead, the journey and process of getting there are what we enjoy most, then perhaps life can become valuable again, work can mean something, and personal life can find happiness and peace.

I recently closed the final page on a book that I read in the latter part of 2022, I actually finished reading it right before new years eve. It is now one of my favourite books, Predatory Thinking by Dave Trott. In a chapter titled ‘The journey vs the destination’ — “Mick Dean was a very successful advertising photographer. He won lots of awards, owned a very nice studio, made lots of money, bought pretty much whatever he wanted, and generally had a good life.”

“Mick is also an intelligent, thoughtful bloke. He likes to read a lot. Especially about history. Mick read about the ancient pilgrimage trail to Santiago de Compostela. A route pilgrims have walked for over 1,000 years. Starting in a small village in France, and going on foot across the Pyrenees into Spain. Over 600 miles, all the way to an ancient cathedral in a small town.”

I will leave the details out, though an intriguing chapter… It would not be fair to the author, I will summarize the point. Mick told his friend about this pilgrimage he had read about, his friend said he had read about it too and would love to do it. But Mick’s friend was sick and wouldn’t be able to walk the journey. Someone who overheard the conversation leaned in across from the table next to Mick and his friend and told them that horseback was an option. Mick and his friend were delighted, but Mick was always busy being a famous photographer and all…

Eventually, Mick had an entire month free, no work, no meetings, and he was free to do the pilgrimage with his friend. As a photographer, Mick would normally plan his trip to do the job, cutting down a 3-week walk into an 8-hour day via plane, etc. But this was not a job, this was something else and Mick wanted to experience it all.

Mick and his friend did the pilgrimage and it changed Mick’s life, and I assume his friend's as well — “And Mick thought, what is the purpose of life, the end of the process?”… “Mick saw that the journey was the destination. He’d been living his whole life for something that didn’t even exist.”

“Then he thought, ‘If I’ll wish I’d done it when it’s too late, why don’t I just do it now?’” — I hope I summarized this wonderful story well, but the point is this, how much time and how much effort we put in matters. But what we put that time and effort into is what I believe is most important. We expel energy and time each day in everything, and some things we could agree are unavoidable… but leveraging is an awareness of a value and how to make the most of that value.

We must value our time and effort so much that we become selective with where we use them. Meaningful things are usually worth it, family, and other loved ones, work, beneficial things, or things that add meaning to our lives.

If you find yourself overwhelmed, pause for a moment and review what you can change, or what do you need someone else to do so you can focus on other things. Then you figure out how to get that help. Do you need money or do you need to learn to let go of your grasp in order to spend your valuable time and effort elsewhere?

Mick now paints and lives a fulfilling life, he is no longer part of the corporate rush for success, he found personal success. He lives a fulfilling life. We may not want the same life as Mick, and we don’t have to. I think the overall point is to find meaning in ourselves, and in our lives, and do meaningful things so that we also can arrive at a solemn place.

I like to say life is meant to be lived, experience it, life is designed, so we experience design. What I mean by all that is simple, we must spend time with nature, spend time with ourselves. We must find appreciation in the beauty of life because though it has an ugly underbelly, it is all contrasted by its dynamic opposite, all the beautiful things.

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Phillip J. Clayton

Brand consultant | Strategic advisor | International brand & marketing design judge: pac-awards.com | Writer | Creative director