The old proverb says, “If you have only two coins left, use one to buy a loaf of bread, and the other one to buy a hyacinth.” I like that! It reminds us that having beauty in our life can be just as important as having food. We need a regular dose of beauty to counterbalance the ugly, stressful, and depressing things we may see on any given day.
In my book, The Grace of Beauty, I devote several chapters to beauty’s positive influence on our brain, physical health, and spiritual life. I also try to show that beauty comes in a wide variety of forms. Take creation. Many of us are quick to find beauty in the natural world. We frequent parks, we putter in our gardens, we play with our pets, we feed the birds, we take time to enjoy a sunset, we look up at the stars at night.
Some of us find beauty in words. I am one of those rare individuals who really, really likes Melville’s Moby Dick. From the first sentence (“Call me Ishmael”) to the last (“It was the devious-cruising Rachel, that in her retracing search after her missing children, only found another orphan”). Others of us find beauty in poetry, plays, movies, bands or orchestras. Some of us prefer the visual arts and go to art museums where we get lost in Impressionist paintings, Indian pottery, or contemporary photography.
There’s beauty even in sports. For example, I love the grace and precision of a well-turned double play. Or a receiver zig-zagging the full 100 yards to return a punt. Or the gracefulness of a successful 19 yard putt. There’s beauty to be found just about anywhere—in science, medicine, construction, cooking, crafts, religion, and (of course) in people. The secret is to notice, pause, and enjoy.
How does beauty work her positive magic on our psyche and soul? Here are a few ways:
Beauty grounds us. It demands our full attention. When we are entranced by beauty, we can’t be ruing the past or worrying about the future; we are rooted in the here and now.
Beauty affirms life. In his book, Beauty and the Soul, Piero Ferrucci writes, “The more we can perceive beauty in our surroundings and also inside us, the more we feel at home and glad to exist.”
Beauty stimulates the imagination. When we feel overwhelmed by our problems or imprisoned by circumstances, beauty can activate our imagination. It can lead us to see things differently and to envision new possibilities.
Beauty eases our sense of aloneness. We feel more connected with others when we are experiencing something beautiful. And many times we may even feel more connected to the Other, namely, God, the ultimate source of all Beauty.
Speaking of God, let me tell you of this incident with my father. My dad always had a big garden. Every day, even before he retired, he would spend hours out there weeding, watering, and caring for everything he grew: asparagus, peas, tomatoes, peppers, beans, spinach, basil, cauliflower, broccoli, corn, squash, watermelons—you get the idea. One birthday, my sister gave him a small plaque which said, “I never feel closer to God than when I’m in my garden.” When Dad unwrapped it and read it, he smiled and said, “This is exactly how I feel too!”
Beautiful God, help me to grow in my awareness of the beauty all around me: in creation, in people, in myself, and in human-made beauty expressed in color, line, texture, word, symbol, sound, gesture, and movement. Help me to grow in my appreciation of beauty’s mystery, power, delight, and absolute necessity in my life. Give me the grace to contribute my own particular beauty into this world—especially through beauty’s highest expression: selfless loving. I ask these things of you, “O Beauty ever ancient, ever new.” Amen.
Where do you find beauty in your everyday life?
Recall an incident where a few moments of beauty “nourished your soul.” Could you share it with us?
What other effects of beauty (beside the ones listed above) have you experienced?
PS: I big thank you for your prayers for last week’s retreat with the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, KS. The Sisters and I appreciated your support! And I want to send out a special thank you to two of their sisters: Sisters Noreen and Judy who helped me so much all week. Noreen was my DJ and more, and Judy was my Uber driver and more!
And now I have a real treat for you: an 8 minute dose of beauty! The video features an artist, Jay Lee, painting a field of sunflowers! The video includes some lovely relaxing music too. Watch as the artist paints not only with a brush, but also with some unusual utensils! It’s amazing!
I encourage you to add a comment below. I love hearing from you!