We all adhere to divergent notions of what constitutes beauty and a beautiful life is bound to reflect that diversity, but what is beauty? How about this:
Beauty is presence.
We recognize beauty’s presence through the sense of pleasure it induces in us—a quality of being and becoming found pleasing and attractive not only to our physical senses, but also the senses of mind and spirit. Paradox, as it will, expands and deepens this notion. Beauty’s more nuanced presence, for example, can often be detected in that which is conventionally thought to be ugly. Think wabi sabi or merely the expressive wrinkles and creases that grace our face as we age.
The salient point here is that beauty, not unlike a beautiful life, is as rich, diverse and complex as the cosmos itself—a particular comingling of both the light and the dark in life—by which I mean to say, it’s not all blowsy roses on a lovely sunlit afternoon in June, but the substantial amount of mud and compost they are rooted in, and the driving rain providing their nourishment as well.
A guest contributor for On Being with Krista Tippet offers this complementary insight regarding the subject at hand:
“Moments of beauty — be it music, art, nature, or an act of kindness — can take you out of a space of weary familiarity. Beauty, in whatever form it takes, can interrupt a pattern of behavior or a way of thinking and cause us to stop in our tracks and take notice of it. There are people holding out on the toughest frontiers of existence, surrounded by misery, but yet somehow sustained by a moment of beauty.”
This observation leading to another bit of enlightenment:
Beauty is subversive.
Beauty is subversive because it is a source of power—power to renew faith, instill hope … the power to inspire—an argument wonderfully made by the late Irish authour John O’Donohue in his book, Divine Beauty: The Invisible Embrace. A worthy read.
All of which is to say, beauty far from being irrelevant, trivial or a luxury we simply can’t afford, serves an indispensable purpose.
Beauty is necessary.
Why put up with banality in the design and architecture of our life when potential for something much more rich, interesting and life giving is possible?
Living a beautiful life in the fullness of this context opens up a whole new world.