beauty |ˈbyoōtē|noun – a combination of qualities, such as shape, color, or form, that pleases the aesthetic senses, esp. the sight OR a combination of qualities that pleases the intellect or moral sense.
Proverb : ‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder’, meaning beauty cannot be judged objectively, for what one person finds beautiful or admirable may not appeal to another.
Perhaps the clearest realisation I came to on our holiday last month was that what I really love in this amazing world in which we live is beauty. Not nature, art, history or culture nor even countryside or seaside, but that moment when the view before you – whether trees and sky, paint on a canvas, waves and sunshine or brick and stone – comes together with light and colour in perfect harmony. That is the instant I reach for my camera, the moment I say to my companion “just look at that!” – as the heart is gladdened and the memory seared.
Yes, beauty changes us – builds a store of good inside our mind’s eye and makes memories that cannot be taken away but revisited for years to come. As the proverb above says, we all find different things beautiful – and as the song says, ‘everything is beautiful in it’s own way’… well, maybe not everything, but a lot of things. There can be little doubt that most of us would agree on Florentine frescoes or Tuscan landscapes – but at home we do also have work by an artist who uses photoshop to construct ‘cityscapes’: however, whatever else her motivation may be, to me roadworks and railway lines are anything but beautiful No, for me there usually has to be light and colour involved rather than grey skies, slag heaps, rubbish tips and barbed wire!
So perhaps there is something of escapism about a search for beauty – or perhaps it is just a longing for the best in life and the qualities we all yearn for – a taste of heaven. Whatever the reason, on this holiday I tasted enough beauty to last several years – a glorious meal of wonder and awe – at both God’s creation and the craftsmanship of men.
Part of it is that I love ‘tidiness’ – harmony – that perfect composition. I love to capture the light: I crave the picturesque. It isn’t real life for most people – though there is a council house near here with a garden overflowing with pots and hanging baskets of colour, where the inhabitants have gone to so much trouble and expense to make their ordinary environment beautiful – and it really is, because their effort and commitment shines even brighter that the red, white and yellow flowers. I wonder what they would say if I knocked on the door and told them they are artists?
You have to look hard to see it here in Loughborough, perhaps – not like in the world of the well-to-do, where we were having breakfast by Lake Garda: that was beautiful bliss for a couple of days! But it’s a shame if beauty is the prerogative of the rich – as when all the world-class art is bought up by millionaires and hidden from public view or the vast country estates are owned by a few families… It seems beauty has a price like anything else of value.
Saul Bellow said, ‘Art makes order out of chaos’ – yes that’s the harmonious aspect that I love. But there is also the emotional and expressive side to it. The definition above says our moral and intellectual sensibilities can also be touched by beauty. We certainly found that some of the spiritual subjects portrayed had an even deeper effect on us when their truth resounded in our hearts and brought out the worship response the artist had intended.
A picture is worth 1000 words – and (unless it is music) beauty is best appreciated by the eye – so here are some more of my favourite photos – along with the lyrics of a recent song by Paul Simon in which he seems to be saying the same thing as Philippians 4v8 – look at what is good and true, invest in love, make the most of the positive around you, don’t waste the time you have been given, appreciate the beauty…
I’m going to make a chicken gumbo
Toss some sausage in the pot
I’m going to flavor it with okra
Cayenne pepper to make it hot
You know life is what we make of it
So beautiful or so what
I’m just a raindrop in a bucket
A coin dropped in a slot
I am an empty house on Weed Street
Across the road from the vacant lot
You know life is what you make of it
So beautiful or so what
Ain’t it strange the way we’re ignorant
How we seek out bad advice
How we jigger it and figure it
Mistaking value for the price
And play a game with time and love
Like pair of rolling dice
Sometimes beauty doesn’t just happen to us, outside of us, but is a choice to make. Maybe that’s what ‘everything is beautiful in it’s own way’ really means… ‘if we choose to let it be’. We can have a ‘so what’ attitude – but life is full of glory and grace, significance and artistry when we open our eyes. We have been privileged to see some of the most beautiful things and places in the world, but it remains true that even in the broken cityscapes, ‘life is what we make of it.’
Often the best way to glimpse beauty is in a person’s living face or smile… Indeed, to finish – here are 2 of the most beautiful things I have ever seen!
My 2 wonderful little children… in photos taken quite a few years ago now! Surely beauty is in the eye of the beholder… but look at that seaside joy! They are SO beautiful!
So what? So I am grateful and blessed, happy and refreshed – that’s what 🙂