I’ve been reading and digesting Brother Claudio Imperatrice’s interview with Fr. Mauro Mantovani, SDB, Dean of the Faculty of Philosophy of the ‘Salesianum” in Rome, regarding the ‘way of beauty’ among other topics.  The article is titled Timeliness of the Thought of St. Thomas Aquinas and it can be accessed in Heralds of the Gospel: An International Association of Pontifical Right Vol. 4, No.34, August 2010.

I’ve been somewhat consumed by the concept of beauty for years, particularly when I am challenged about God and faith.  I find beauty makes everything self-evident.  And it really is as simple as this…however, much has been written and many great thinkers have substantiated this through years of thought and it is obvious that the flip side of goodness IS the ‘bad and ugly’.  Theologians and philosophers acknowledge this, as much as the beautiful.  It is always an interesting thing to pour over the papers and books that have been written on such topics.  For example, Peter S. Williams has written an interesting thesis here regarding aesthetic value.

One of the most engaging books that I have read on the topic is the late John O’Donohue’s Beauty: The Invisible Embrace. I recommend this one, as well as the book, Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom.

My somewhat simplified view on beauty is that first, we take our world in through our senses, so beauty is expressed to us via the channel of our own senses.  I think that given that we are, each one, unique…this means that our experience of beauty is very personal to us.  Subsequent to that, the expression each person has of beauty is unique as well.  We needn’t judge others for their reaction or lack of reaction to what is beautiful.

Creation, as an act, is, in itself, beautiful.  Others may not agree with this.  I think that the act of creating is very mystical and there is something in that mystery that ‘chokes me up’. When I have this physical reaction…when tears well up or I find myself lifted and carried away by a piece of music or a story told or a painting, I know that I am experiencing BEAUTY.  Beauty is, for me, divine…Divine…and transcendent.

‘To have been created’ also seems beautiful to me.  Even if my senses tell me that an object or piece of music is ugly or disjointed, such as would be experienced while viewing a poorly composed painting,  if I think about the creator or the creation of that object, I marvel at its beauty.  So, personally, I don’t equate what beauty is with some sort of sensory perfection.  I struggle to write about beauty…but will continue to think about it simply because I am so often, on a daily basis, blessed with ‘the beautiful’.  I hope that you are also.

In conclusion…a wonderful poem by Gerard Manley Hopkins.  You may even wish to have it recited to you, here.  The photograph serving to illustrate this bit of writing is a Moon Flower captured by a friend of mine, Lorraine Lee Dunne.  I think it serves as a visual metaphor.  It is beautiful!


Pied Beauty

By Gerard Manley Hopkins

Glory be to God for dappled things –
   For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
      For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
   Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
      And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
   Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
      With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change:
                                Praise him.
Source: Gerard Manley Hopkins: Poems and Prose (Penguin Classics, 1985)
I would be grateful if you would leave your thoughts on beauty here with me.

5 thoughts on “Beauty

  1. Your meditation on Beauty is deeply thoughtful and inspiring. Within the art school and critical academic environment the debate on what constitutes ‘beauty’ and what we mean by this word continues. For some the concept of beauty has become meaningless, due to thoughtless overuse, equivalent to ‘nice’ or ‘interesting’ – for others its definition changes with the ages. “In the eye of the beholder” has become cliche, however; I believe that this phrase still has truth, although it might also include ‘the heart’…

  2. Thank you for sharing yet another inspiring response. I appreciate that you read my blog, John. You are generous. And…at any time, you can copy and re post my writing on text. I’m sorry I haven’t replied on that.

  3. Maybe beauty is the physical representation of goodness, not that all things beautiful are good, but that goodness exists in this universe and if we could see goodness put on flesh or paint or color it would be the most wondrous beauty of all.

  4. I love what you said. It reminds me of a painting that was in my subletted NYC apartment, which I thought was very ugly. The more I lived with it (and the woman’s other things), the more I appreciated who she was, and how this would have been beautiful to her. I think looking at it every day, and knowing that she created it, made it beautiful. Funny how perceptions can change. I find that with people a lot, too. People who I first thing of as “ugly” (that’s harsh… let’s say, “unattractive”) – I get to know them, fall in love with them, then find them beautiful. Funny, that.

    • I love that you left me a comment!! WHOOT! Belinda…if it wasn’t for the battles, I may never have met you…I might not be listening to Flashback Friday music…I am filled with gratitude that I am coming to know you. Have a more than fantastic weekend!!

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