I’ve heard the phrase, “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” my entire life; however I rarely gave it much thought until the last few years or so. Piero Ferrucci wrote a book entitled Beauty and The Soul which I would read, put down, contemplate for a while, then read some more. In it he discussed the importance of beauty in everyday life, saying that without beauty we as human beings “cannot live full and satisfying lives.” His thoughts on beauty resonated with me and I found myself considering the word “beauty” much differently than I had before. Beauty has been, and will always be, paramount in my life. My early interest in art, the human body and nature has given me much to see, feel and appreciate beauty in. However, I never considered how very intimate one’s own ideas of beauty really are until Ferrucci pointed out the differences in how each one of us sees and respond to beauty. Beauty is simply a feeling and completely without limits.
My intimacy with beauty is both aesthetic and cerebral. I respond to cerebral beauty such as poetry and songs while at the same time a large portion of my thoughts on beauty relate to the physical. Being the visual person that I am I see aesthetic beauty all around me on a daily basis and it too evokes strong feelings. Beauty, to me, has been somewhat of a protective shield against the ugliness in the world for most of my life. A part of me thinks that I have chosen to focus on beauty; beautiful poems, beautiful songs and beautiful art as to cocoon myself from that ugliness – to cope perhaps. Beauty has served me well. It is why when I feel emotionally beaten I read poetry or listen to music. It’s not that the particular poem I might read or song I may hear will “pick-me-up” so to speak. On the contrary; it may very well be a sad poem or song, however each word, be it sad, happy or otherwise, gives to me a feeling of beauty that I can carry – it’s the art itself that soothes me.
Beauty in Literature — A co-worker recently asked if I had read the book Fifty Shades of Grey. I responded that I hadn’t read it. She was surprised and after highly recommending it praised it as “a beautiful piece of work.” In her eyes that particular book, like many women in the United States I suppose, constitutes “beautiful” literature. I, however, having thumbed through it and read about it wouldn’t consider it “beautiful” and opted out of reading it. But who am I to judge what a beautiful piece of literature is or is not? Beauty really is extraordinary and non-conforming. What is beautiful to her may not be to me. It would be ugly of me to judge her ideas of beauty and especially beautiful literature. I see literature as a gate. We can enter and exit in our minds, visit far off places and even become someone else entirely with literature…of which I have done them all from time to time.
Beauty in the Mirror — I once knew a man who would stare in the mirror for hours, posing and pretending to have his picture snapped by the paparazzi. He was taken by his own beauty and would frequently comment on how noble his nose or profile was…. Outward appearances of beauty were to him foremost as to how he viewed and reacted to those he met. On the contrary, I would often look in the same mirror and see my too big of a mouth and too small of breasts and if the paparazzi were indeed behind his mirror I may have run out the door. I’ve never considered myself ugly, I just prefer to keep personal beauty at a distance never letting it take over and consume me. On the occasion that it does creep in a little too close I remind myself of its fickleness instead preferring to feel beautiful, rather than always have a beautiful shell. In fact, there are days in which I feel utterly ugly and sour on the inside, even if my hair is “perfect” (it’s usually a knotty mess) and I may have on a pretty dress and sexy new pair of heels on my feet…. I still don’t feel beautiful at all. While other days I may need to wash my hair, change my worn out jeans and remove the chipping paint off my toes – I feel beautiful. Beauty is not something you can grab a hold of like perfect hair or pretty shoes.
Beauty in Art — The French painter Paul Gauguin once said, “I shut my eyes in order to see.” Gauguin’s creations were beautiful and his closing of his eyes gave him the feelings needed to create and associate with his subjects. Creation is art, period. Personally, after I’ve drawn a piece, or written a poem or even planted a flower in my garden, I feel a sort of calmness afterward. It’s as if my entire being has been soaked in a warm bath by her mother (that mother being beauty) and is now ready for a deep slumber. I may not spend a lot of time in every room of an art museum and I definitely have my specific tastes and preferences in painters and photographers. However, I appreciate the beauty in all works. I also may not “get” some modern artists, but nonetheless they still create, which is entirely beautiful in and of itself.
Beauty in Love — I think perhaps this might be my key to beauty – love. Often times beauty brings feelings of love. When I look at my children I see beauty, I feel love. Likewise, when I feel loved I tend to see more beauty in the world. I won’t go so far as to be cliché and say that colors are brighter, etc., but there most certainly is an underlying sense of surrounding beauty when I feel love, be it romantic or platonic. Vanda Scaravelli, a woman and yogi whose work and writings (Awakening the Spine) I admire and respect immensely, wrote this before she died – “There is no beauty without love and there is no love without beauty. What is beauty? Are love and beauty interconnected? Does beauty derive from love? Or does love derive from beauty? You will discover the amazing transformation in a person when she is loved; she blossoms, becoming more beautiful each day. When we love what we are doing there is beauty in it and even the more insignificant work becomes attractive. Love has no barriers, it is like a pool spring, pouring water endlessly. And it is perhaps this absence of limitation that gives wings to fly.”
From my personal experience, my own absence of limitations has given me much beauty, love and a significant amount of creativity: And yes, a full and satisfying life.