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What is beauty? A limited definition of beauty is something that invokes pleasure through or is pleasing to one of the five senses or something that when experienced through the five senses produces a positive emotion or feeling. What if we drop the “five senses” part of that definition and expand it by saying that beauty is something that when it is experienced it invokes pleasure to or lifts the heart and spirit and produces a positive emotion or feeling? This feels more accurate.
There have certainly been moments in life when everything hitting my physical senses would, under normal circumstances, have produced very negative emotions or feelings, but in that moment, I was able to perceive in the experience, something beautiful. Beauty, then, is highly dependent on my perception.
If this is true then, as in the example above, there will be times in my life when my five senses are experiencing ugliness, but if I am open to it, my heart and spirit can perceive the beauty in the moment, beyond the five senses. If I’m not open to it, however, I can easily get distracted by what my five senses are experiencing and be blinded to the real beauty of life. Similarly, if my heart is full of fear or anger or bitterness, I can be blind to the beauty that is literally all around me, even what might be bombarding my physical senses.
Finding some meaning or purpose to my hardships is the first step to finding the beauty in them. It takes courage and faith to perceive the beauty in the ugly, difficult, hard, or negative, and it may take years before I can look back and see the beauty in some experiences.
But even remembering a difficult experience and intentionally seeking the meaning can assist me in knowing that there is meaning to my current hardships, even if it is difficult to see them in the moment. I can focus on the fact that they are providing the resistance that will make me stronger, or I can choose to view them as part of my “great classroom” experience. Creating beauty and meaning in my life is an everyday choice, an everyday design that I choose with courage, but I can choose to see every moment as beautiful because of the purpose and meaning it brings into my life.
If I can find beauty in memories of past experiences, then perceiving beauty definitely includes feelings and emotions. So, the heart, once again, has a great role to play in finding beauty. The scriptures are full of references to the heart finding the beauty of things. When a group of people in ancient America gathered in a location and came to a knowledge of the gospel of Jesus Christ and then made covenants with God, the waters there were described, “how beautiful are they to the eyes of them who there came to the knowledge of their Redeemer” (Mosiah 18:30).
Perceiving and feeling beauty creates the positive emotions. Building beauty is altering my perceptions in order to live in those positive emotions. Isaiah continues in verse 9: “Break forth into joy, sing together, ye waste places . . . for the Lord hath comforted his people.” I feel like rejoicing, singing, and dancing, and my life is filled with beauty, peace, and comfort through the Lord. He is beauty.
How can I rethink or rebuild my vision of beauty? In the book of Proverbs, we can read: “Where there is no vision, the people perish” (Proverbs 29:18). Experiencing life predominantly through my physical senses allows me to judge what is beautiful predominantly through those same senses. But, experiencing life through the heart and spirit includes my emotions, feelings, impressions, and intuition—all of my spiritual gifts—in seeking beauty. This allows me to perceive beauty even in something that may not appear beautiful to my physical senses.
Work to use the positive way to speak. Work on saying the good things that you will do; not the bad things that you will stop doing. Speech is powerful and saying what you won’t do is not creating meaning; it’s not pushing you towards where you want to go. It’s making present the place you don’t want to go. Check your words. Do they expand the soul with light and love or do they contract and shrivel the soul? Just practice this and see the beauty and meaning come to fruition in your life.
What can I do when I still can’t see beauty in my circumstance? The process of just looking for beauty outside of myself will show me the things I care about. Viktor E. Frankl says, “The second way of finding a meaning in life is by experiencing something-such as goodness, truth and beauty—by experiencing nature and culture or, last but not least, by experiencing another human being in his very uniqueness—by loving him.”
Finding the beauty within yourself helps you find the beauty outside yourself. In the Introduction, I told the story of how thinking of someone I loved while creating greeting cards assisted me in creating something that was far more beautiful than if I wasn’t thinking of anyone to give the card to. As part of creativity exercises, we encourage you to think of someone you are creating for or think of why you are doing it. Then create. Love, meaning, and purpose strengthens the creative process and establishes a deeper beauty. Matthew 16:25 states, “whosoever will lose his life for my sake shall find it.” We lose ourselves in the serving of others. And then the beauty inside ourselves is made manifest.
As our perceptions have changed toward beauty, our hearts open to love—it’s as if our lives are illuminated. The sky is bluer. The trees are greener. The light is brighter. The “Light Fountain” is a beauty light. And when you turn it on in that “Connection sweet spot,” then you can’t help but to see beauty and meaning in that light. Beauty is illuminated.
What are your thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments!
The following was taken from the book Design Your Life In Meaningful Ways currently available at cedarfort.com.