Confucius may have said it best: “Everything has beauty,” he taught, “but not everyone sees it.” Seeing it, the spiritual person knows, is the task of a lifetime. It is also the reward of a lifetime well-lived, lived in balance, lived from the inside out as well as from the outside in.
Unfortunately, this culture does not teach beauty in its schools nor require it in its programs. Most of all, it does not prescribe it for its healing value. The value of beauty in shaping the soul, let alone in curing the ills that a lack of beauty brings on, we ignore.
In a plastic world, frenzied by its pursuit of money or dried to the bone by the lack of it, the whole of life is cheapened, devalued. Then the collectibles of life take precedence over its joys. Striving trumps achievement. Nothing is ever enough. Only consumption brings a sense of success in life.
And so life goes by, a merry-go-round of toys gotten or yet to get. Just for the sake of having them. Whether they bring anything of internal value in return is seldom factored into the equation.
Without obeisance to the God of More, materialism says, how can we ever say that life has been worth it? How else will we come to know that life has value in itself? How will we ever learn that life lived in pursuit of beauty has been lived beautifully?
Too often, we miss the obvious: beauty is meant to enable us to transcend the mundane, to escape the frivolous, to save us from the toxicity of the cheap and tawdry. Because of beauty, we may begin to see that the purpose of life is to make beauty possible. Beauty brings peace to the soul and satisfaction to the heart. It saves us from the stress that cacophony brings.
To be enriched by beauty is to have within us the sight of life that will never go away, that will never leave us empty. It is the sight of one single sunset that brings layers of life to every sunset thereafter. When we begin to recognize beauty, to see it all around us, it has done its work on us. Steeped in beauty, we have become beautiful ourselves. We are calm now, uplifted, enriched by the world around us, deepened in our sensitivities, our vision of the world more finely honed. We become the beauty we have come to see everywhere.
—from Two Dogs and A Parrot (BlueBridge), by Joan Chittister