Stephan Joppich (aka Leo Sharp)

See less, feel more

publishedabout 2 months ago
5 min read

This newsletter is a fortnightly meditation on living a more intentional, fulfilled life.
Every edition includes exclusive updates, intriguing ideas, and meaningful content recommendations.

Today: The problem with beauty and how to see without your eyes

Hey there!

People are always surprised to hear that I suffer from an extreme case of keratoconus. This basically means my eye sight is horrible. With my right eye, I can only make out a smoothie of colors. My left eye is better but still not strong enough to read anything across the room.

The problem? Glasses won't do the trick. This is because my cornea doesn't show the profile of a perfect parabola. It's much closer to a drunk cone. Laser eye surgery also doesn't work because my cornea is too thin to smooth it out at its edges.

The only cure is customized, rigid contact lenses. Which is... inconvenient. They're hyper sensitive to dust, require lots of daily care, easily slip down the drain, and only partly correct my vision impairment.

But here's the thing: I don't think I actually "suffer."

I'm beyond grateful there's a treatment. And I've embraced it as an opportunity to see more without my eyes. To pay more attention to my other senses.

In fact, here's my theory: The world becomes more beautiful when you see less because you feel more.

Let's unpack that idea in three snippets.

Idea: The art of seeing the world with 21+ senses

I. The problem with aesthetics and beauty

Western culture drools over everything that's visually pleasing.

We fetishize aesthetics: From beauty standards to pompous homes to media behemoths that are entirely built on visuals (ahem, Instagram). And so, we tend to assume that everything with good looks must, in fact, be good. (For example, studies found that physically attractive political candidates get more votes, even if they're less likable and competent.)

It's easy to see why that's a treacherous craze:

  • We get distracted by marketing strategies that focus on design but not value.
  • We chase people who are attractive on the outside but toxic on the inside.
  • We obsess over our own looks even though we're fine as we are.

Don't get me wrong -- aesthetics are important. Good looks are important. But if we only pay attention to our eyes, we lose more than 80% of our sensory experience.

II. We live in a culture of sense deprivation

In his book How Should We Live?, Roman Krznaric debunks the myth that vision is our predominant sense. People from the Ongee tribe, for example, greet each other with, "How is your nose?" This is because scent is their most critical survival skill. It unites their universe.

Or consider this: For millennia, humans passed down their knowledge through stories. As a result, we used to be more attentive listeners.

But today, we're far less reliant on our senses for survival. So unless we're connoisseurs, elite musicians, or perfumers, we miss out on rich details of daily life. We live in a state of sensory deprivation.

And that's only the tip of the iceberg. Modern science has confirmed 21 senses (not just the five we learn from silly songs in school). For example, we're also equipped with senses of temperature change, balance, and even magnetic field detection. Plus, there's our little-credited inner intelligence -- things like imagination, creativity, memory, gut feeling, etc.

The lesson? To live a fulfilled life, we should dare to harness the power of ALL our senses. Relying too heavily on our eyes gives us an incomplete, blurry picture. As Krznaric puts it:

"The senses are one of the most precious ways we have to learn about the world, and about ourselves. Most of us have hardly begun to harness their latent power. Turning on our senses is a forgotten freedom we all possess, and can add new dimensions of meaning and experience to our lives."

The only question that remains is... how?

III. Reconnecting with your senses

Sharpening your senses is like building muscle. It's a skill that anyone can learn. Here are three things to consider:

  1. Focus on non-visual experiences. Do you hear the birds chirping as you walk to work? Your feet tapping the street? The scent of gasoline and petrichor? Do you truly taste the morning coffee? What if you made an effort not just to remember your life with pictures, but also with sounds, odors, and tastes?
  2. Heighten your forgotten senses. You might try yoga to improve your balance. Or work on your kin-aesthetic sense to become more mindful of your posture. (One popular method is the Alexander Technique.) Bonus effect: It'll save you a lot of back pain.
  3. Acknowledge your inner world. This may sound woo-woo, but it's quite simple: Dare to look inward. Sit down to meditate to observe your thoughts. Use your fantasy to play out an impossible scenario. Whip out your journal or voice recorder and transcribe a precious memory. Or pay more attention to your gut when making decisions. You'll find that your mind entails a hidden intellect.

Our senses are treasures of experiences, meaning, and delight. Chances are, how you experience life right now is only a drop in an ocean of sensations.

The key is to see less and feel more.

Content: The mystery of love + the unexpected results of laser eye surgery

There are two pieces of art I love on this topic:

One. The Sufjan Stevens song Mystery of Love. (It also happens to be the theme song of Call Me By Your Name, one of my favorite movies). Here's the opening line:

Oh, to see without my eyes
The first time that you kissed me

It invites you to think beyond visuals. To "see" with your other senses.

Two. This wonderful essay by Elizabeth Dawber about her (unusual) experience with laser eye surgery. It totally made reconsider my own vision impairment.

Something to think about

A quote from Helen Keller, a deaf and blind academic, activist, and writer (no joke!):

"I have walked with people whose eyes are full of light, but who see nothing in wood, sea, or sky, nothing in city streets, nothing in books. What a witless masquerade is this seeing! … When they look at things, they put their hands in their pockets. No doubt that is one reason why their knowledge is often so vague, inaccurate, and useless."

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Until next time,


Bonus: friend links to newest blog posts (if you love them, you can clap up to 50 times to signal the arcane algorithm they're worth sharing.)

  1. 5 Overwhelming Areas in Life You Can Declutter in 15 Minutes (Or Less)
  2. This Book Reveals How You Can Work Less and Get More Done
  3. The Forgotten Skill That Helps You Absorb Everything You Read