By James Bishop Jr.
(April 25, 2018)
Anyone who uses their ability to see beauty never grows old
“Beauty is truth, truth beauty—that is all ye know on earth, and all ye need to know.”
Beauty is a rich word to toss around thanks to some spicy synonyms therein: loveliness, pleasure, acquisitiveness, splendor, and magnificence. Noticeably, each in their own way arouse the senses—taste, smell, sight, touch, and hearing. In no time, these lead to kalescopic moments—a sip of California Pinot Noir, the aroma of Jasmine, or the stunning multicolored sunsets over Mingus, or the touch of fresh peach on the lips, the sound of birdsong or the loveliness of a radiant smile—not forgetting the sound of mountain water roaring down Oak Creek.
Leave it to the Greeks in ancient times for they believed that beauty was sacred because of its transforming qualities that pleasurably exalt the mind or spirit.
In modern times, many honored the Greek’s belief that when we experience the beautiful there is a sense of homecoming. Years ago, on the old family farm, when the pond ice melted and rushed over the hand-made dam into the swamp, scattering the lovely birds, I felt at home with the lions and wild horses that once were there.
Nowadays, by contrast, if one types the word “beauty” on Google, the first page shows photos of young and lovely women sampling new cosmetics, skin care products, and modelling sexy skimpy outfits. In many ways this adds ugliness, rudeness, mediocrity to the culture. For many citizens increasing ugliness has caused them to lose their trust in the future and their innocence. More and more people live one minute to the next, fearing that anything can happen from one day to the next.
Cautions poet Mary Oliver, “We must never be afraid to use the word beautiful”. Good idea, more people should try it.
Meanwhile, is the word itself becoming obsolete?
For sure, the custom of our times is to mistake glamour for beauty, so fickle and slick and commercial that may be. On another front, scholars and researchers tell me that the topic of beauty is neglected in the cultural mainstream. Outside a museum or gallery people rarely talk about beauty, and along with art, such topics are seen as superfluous to daily life. Like the saying that beauty is only skin deep, any talk about it rarely goes deeper.
With all the tragedies and scary developments erupting around the world, serious focusing on beauty might be a salve. Truth be told, however, too many people agree with the tourist man sipping drinks at Sedona’s Judi’s, one summer afternoon. Asked if he found the red rocks to be beautiful, he replied, “They are just rocks to me. I do not do that mushy stuff. It’s for the elites.”
A dangerous change is in the wind due to the Internet. More and more people, young, and old have become fixated on their devices to the point of no longer having interest in the world around them. Observe people on hiking trails and near the creeks, butterflies all around, wild flowers thriving, in their hands are not bird books but devices—and little conversation ensues.
Time was not so long ago, in the days of more humanist worldviews, that beauty was the proper goal of art and maybe civilization itself. So declares David Brooks, top New York author “beauty conquers the deadening aspects of routine, it educates the emotions and connects us to the eternal”. Agrees Professor Donohue, drawing on early Greek thinking, “without beauty the search for truth, the desire for goodness, and the love of order, and unity, would be sterile exploits. Beauty brings warmth, elegance, and grandeur.”
Somehow, it says here on Wilson Street, in far too many places, the links between the true, the beautiful, and the good have been broken—leaving the world, beauty poor.
As more and more people have stopped looking for beauty, then they wonder why their lives are ugly. All they have to do is look for beauty in everything and they will find it The Greeks did.
Just ask Laurie Mather, from Rimrock who said, “The grace of the hummingbird reminds us that life is rich and beauty is everywhere”.