Beauty as a Core Value

Agave_window_blg“The saying ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’ is usually taken to mean that the sense of beauty is utterly subjective, that every person’s tastes are different. Another more subtle and relevant meaning: if our style of looking and seeing become sensitized to beauty then beauty will shine through in everything we see.” ~John O’Donahue.

Krista Tippett, who is the host of NPR’s OnBeing speaks to this aspiration in her new and resoundingly inspirational book Becoming Wise An Inquiry into the Mystery and Art of Living. She states the book’s purpose as offering a grounded and fiercely hopeful vision of humanity for this century—of personal growth but also renewed public life and spiritual evolution. It insists on the possibility of a common life for this century marked by resilience and redemption, with beauty as a core moral value and civility and love as muscular practice. How inspiring to see someone I so greatly admire validating sentiments I’ve been expressing here–beauty as an essential value in our own personal growth and human spiritual evolution.

The appreciation of beauty seems like something that should be innate or built in to our psyches— perhaps once it was more universally understood. But in recent years with the onset of technology and so much visual clutter competing for our attention, with so many new modes of creating and ways of understanding developing to handle this information overload, we have actually become impoverished in our enrichment by beauty on a daily basis….too many choices inhibit the appreciation of any one choice. ‘Popular’ and sensationalism (politics anyone?) as values have replaced Truth, Beauty and Goodness.

In her book Krista takes John O’Donahue’s definition of beauty as her own, for naming beauty in all its nuance in the moment-to-moment reality of our days: beauty is that in the presence of which we feel more alive….Beauty isn’t all about niceness, loveliness. Beauty is about more rounded substantial becoming….about an emerging fullness, a greater sense of grace and elegance, a deeper sense of depth, and also a kind of homecoming for the enriched memory of your unfolding life.”

So much to ponder there, and so worth the pondering. What resonates for me is ‘beauty as that in the presence of which we feel more alive.’ As a visual artist, this gives me something to aspire to…a great jumping off point for any human effort.

 

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