Beauty comes in many forms. Obviously, my form is not one of those, but that’s a little beside the point.
I have been blessed to experience beauty in literally thousands of manifestations, not the least of which are Hotness’ smile and generous laugh.
But what really do we mean by beauty? Do we mean something that is aesthetically pleasing to one or more of the senses? Would my Mediterranean Shrimp and Angel Hair be, thus, a thing of beauty?
What about something that pleases the soul?
What do you mean when you say something is beautiful? Would you call the soundtrack to The Mission beautiful? How about mountains on a crisp, winter morning when a halo of light and cloud clings to them? Is a child’s laughter a thing of beauty to you?
All this to say that I feel like we as humans, as children of a Divine Father, ought to make deliberate efforts to refine our ability to recognize beauty and allow it into our souls. This thought was prompted by a fellow I know saying that he feels empty, despite having a family he loves and enjoys.
He doesn’t read fiction; refuses to. He doesn’t like theater. He will see movies and likes music. He reads poetry sometimes.
My feeling, and I like and respect this fellow and hope I’m not reflecting negatively on him, was that he was cutting himself off from beauty too much. I wondered if he noticed the beauty around him, absorbed the beauty that waits in a moment when you sit with a child as he or she riffs on a picture book.
Since then, I’ve been thinking about beauty. I thought about Marcus Zusak’s The Book Thief and how there are moments of startlingly beautiful prose, so unexpected and fresh, that I wept. I considered the moment in Merchant of Venice, the one we saw the RSC do in London, when Portia is doing her best to deny Shylock his pound of flesh. The actress in that role did such a perfect job that I was transported and felt the frustration, tension, anger and pending grief that Portia would feel in that moment.
I remembered kneeling across an altar in the temple where I had been so startled by pure beauty that the Spirit had a perfectly clear channel to teach me an important lesson.
I remembered leaving an exhibit room in the Louvre and heading across a wide landing to go downstairs, then turning and seeing Winged Victory. I stood dumbfounded and moved by the emotion evoked by that angelic and mighty figure.
And I think about winter mornings spent walking from my home to work, taking in the moments as the sun’s light behind the mountains made the mountains glimmer and step forward. I think about books I’ve read recently that have moved me. I consider Bridge to Terabithia, my favorite book, and how beautifully it unfolds and tells a story of friendship, family, love and grief.
I remember Armando, Irani, Aline and Victor, a family in Brazil that I was blessed to meet and bring to the Kingdom. Then Marta, Moises and Fernando. The vision of them in white; the smiles on their faces as they came out of the water.
As I list all of those experience with beauty, I realize that what they have in common is that they propel me beyond myself. They break the bonds of my normal, earth-bound perceptions and I feel something greater than myself. I feel impelled to become more and better and the joy of the experience persists for a long time afterward.
Beauty exists on this earth and in our experience because it directs so much of our attention and focus to something beyond and something greater. Beauty elevates.
This is why I think we should make the effort to deliberately notice beauty and allow it to work in us. Also, letting beauty in means more than just noticing it. I think we should seek it out. And we need to recognize that beauty comes in all kinds of forms: music, film, prose, humanity, the natural world, and even food!
I would also submit that beauty that is perceived after seeing flaws and changing one’s perceptions is a deeper and more appreciated beauty.
What’s the most beautiful thing you’ve ever seen? Heard? Tasted? Experienced?