In a world so complex, we seem to have lost the true meaning of beauty. “Beauty is truth, Truth Beauty, John Keats wrote in his “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” So, what is our truth?
When the word beauty is mentioned, different images and meanings come to mind. There is of course, physical beauty, being practically an obsession for mainly women. It is almost impossible to attain perfection, when our icons vary is such extremes as Marilyn Monroe to Twiggy. We become vulnerable to the media, allowing them to convince us to buy into the latest ‘miracle’ cream, or expensive designer wear. The ever so popular adage, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”, is washed away as some advertising executive tries to distort our perceptions of beauty and self-worth.
The battle derives from our insecurities and our need for attention and approval, possibly a result of past traumas. Physical beauty is only ‘skin deep’ and true beauty stems from the soul. Healing these insecurities or ‘ugly scars’ we begin to discover who we are and recognize our beauty within. The wise words of Aristotle, “The beauty of the soul shines out when a man (or woman) bears with composure one heavy mischance after another, not because he (she)doesn’t feel them, but because he (she) is a man (woman) of big and heroic temper.”
Beauty however is not limited to the appearance of women (or men). Music, drama, literature and paintings are all sources of beauty. How is it all connected?
Peter Wagner begins to examine this in his book, “The Pond and the Philosopher’s Stone.” He states that beauty lies below the level of consciousness and is associated with the subconscious. What does this mean? The Webster’s dictionary defines beauty as a quality or a combination of qualities that delight the senses or appeals to the mind. Putting this information together it is safe to say that beauty is something that stirs an emotional resoponse or memory within, whether it is on a conscious level or subconscious level, or both. Therefore, we begin to understand beauty exists every where from a tiny pebble to the Statue of Liberty.
An elderly woman may remind us of a grandmother’s love and stir memories of baked cookies and warm hugs. The rugged lines of her face may represent strength and endurance braving the elements of a lifetime. Looking at the ocean may stir feelings of independence, freedom and limitless beauty. These all being examples of emotional responses, are also examples of beauty. Music, art and theatre may bring us to tears of joy or pain, but remain work of beauty. One may see beauty where another does not, depending on our emotional make-up. One may think the Mona Lisa is beautiful for different reasons than another.
Regardless of our differences, we cannot deny we all need and pursue beauty. As the brilliant Albert Einstien proclaimed, “The pursuit of truth and beauty is a sphere of activity in which we are permitted to remain children of all our lives.”
Through times of pain and sorrow, war and hunger, may we continue to see the beauty; beauty of unity, family, pride, hope and freedom. The beauty within and out. May we heed and practice the wise words of John Keats, “A thing of beauty is a joy forever, it’s loveliness increases, it will never pass into nothingless.”
John Keats Lyric Poems
The Pond and the Philosopher’s Stone, by Pete Wagner
Webster’s Dicitonary 1996