What is Beauty?


Sight makes us blind to beauty

A reader has some questions about a paragraph I wrote in the past:

"Beauty is an experience, not a label. In ordinary conversation, when we say someone is beautiful, we imply that someone else is ugly. Beware of labels because they prevent us from experiencing reality directly. Sensory data reaching our brains are not supposed to be filtered by prejudices.

Narrow-mindedness distorts perception and hinders the joyful experience of life. The moment we drop all labels, we stop seeing the world as we imagined it to be, and start experiencing it as it really is: beautiful." (For the full article see: http://www.personal-development.com/chuck/beauty.htm)

Q: Can you go into more detail about this?

A: Yes, I can. The subject is philosophical; yet, it has practical implications. Since most of us are not accustomed to sitting quietly and reflecting on life, a philosophical piece can be a bit difficult to grasp at the first reading. So, I welcome this opportunity to restate my ideas differently. Each repetition should make the message easier to understand. I congratulate our reader for his questions. You see, most people just abandon ideas they fail to understand. It takes a wise and courageous person to question unfamiliar ideas.

Q: Is it bad to tell someone they're beautiful?

A: Absolutely not. To tell someone they're beautiful is to tell them they're human, for everyone is beautiful. But not everyone can see this simple fact. Others have said the same thing. For example, Confucius (circa 551 ~ 478 BCE) reportedly said, "Everything has its beauty, but not everyone sees it." Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803 ~ 1882) expressed it this way, "Many eyes go through the meadow, but few see the flowers in it." And Jeffrey C. Keene II wrote, "All life is beautiful. All humans are beautiful. Only behavior makes one ugly." What kind of behavior makes one ugly? Well, judging others and calling them ugly is an example of ugly behavior.

Q: What does it mean that sensory data should not be filtered by prejudice?

A: Imagine holding a delectable, tropical drink. You place a straw in the glass and gently suck on the other end. As you do so, a delicious stream of exotic fruit juices flows into your mouth. Ah, the pleasure of it all! In this example, the straw is the tool that allows you to experience the delightful drink.

Similarly, the purpose of sensory data (sounds, sights, aromas, tastes, and the sense of touch) is to act as a bridge, linking us to the wonder, beauty, mystery, and joy of life. But the problem is rather than basking in the richness and grandeur of life, we filter our experiences through the lenses of our opinions, beliefs, and prejudices. For example, instead of welcoming the challenges of the workplace or of family life, we complain that things are not as we would like them to be. Rather than expressing gratitude for what we have, we bemoan what we do not have. We reject a life of excitement and adventure for one of mediocrity and misery.

Q: How do you know if you're being narrow-minded or not?


A: That's easy. If you're unhappy that means you're wearing blinders. Those blinders are the labels you stick on everything.

For instance, when you say your job is TERRIBLE, you are using a label that prevents you from seeing the opportunity your job presents for your growth. Beware of labels, for they are easy to put on, but hard to remove.

Q: If my feelings tell me something is not beautiful, how can I argue with that?

A: That, too, is easy. If your feelings are telling you something, that is emotional, but if you wish to make an argument, you'll have to use logic, or the thinking part of your brain. So, what do you want? To be ruled by your emotions or to take charge of your life with rational thought? If I feel that 'fat' people are lazy, how can I argue with that? Easy, try some logic. Are sumo wrestlers lazy?

Q: Am I supposed to pretend everything is beautiful until my feelings change?

A: No, you're not supposed to pretend; you're supposed to awaken. Awaken to what? Awaken to the facts. Haven't you heard that beauty is in the eye of the beholder? So is ugliness. By the "eye of the beholder," we mean the mind's eye or our imagination. You see, ugliness does not exist "out there." It just exists "in here," in our mind. It is an opinion and nothing else.

Q: How am I supposed to know if I can trust my senses, then? If I can't trust the fact that I think something looks ugly, what can I trust?

A: Don't confuse trusting your senses with trusting your opinions. You can always trust your senses. They just provide you with raw data, but you then process that data by running it through your opinions, beliefs, and biases. For example, someone decides that if women don't look a certain way, they are 'ugly.'  That conclusion does not come from raw sensory data, but comes from the opinion of someone who is still asleep.

If we awaken our spiritual sense, we will conclude that everything was created by a magnificent Creator. Therefore, we will delight in all that is and find all of creation beautiful.  How can we deem anything in creation to be ugly? To do so, is to simply reject what is. And this rejection is based upon arbitrary standards that are used to judge the worthiness of what is.

To see ugliness is to be blind to the beauty in all things, and is a failure to experience the magnificence and splendor of life. If we see Betty as ugly, we don't see her at all. Our view of her is obscured by the label of 'ugliness,' Who are we to determine what is fitting or not? We are not the Creator. When we reject what is, we place ourself above the Creator, imagining that we are a better judge of what deserves to exist.

Bob thinks Betty is ugly, but it isn't Betty that is flawed, it is Bob. Betty doesn't need plastic surgery; Bob needs surgery of his opinions that, like cataracts, prevent him from clearly seeing Betty's beauty. James Allen (1864 ~1912) has a way to see beauty without surgery: "Let there be nothing within thee that is not very beautiful and very gentle, and there will be nothing without thee that is not beautiful and softened by the spell of thy presence."

I titled this article, "Sight makes us blind to beauty" for a reason. You see, we do not see beauty with our eyes, but with our heart. When you are excited, enthralled, and