A little while ago I was sitting by a stream and I gazed downstream into the trees and could see the sunlight coming through the leaves. Almost immediately I said, “I’ve never seen anything with such beauty”.
I was quite struck by this and asked myself what it is that gives something ‘beauty’. Almost immediately I said, “the beautiful is that which awakens in a person a sense of love”. By this I mean that it is not something we create or provoke. It is something that makes us feel a sense of love, as if it demands it. In other words, the beautiful is a reaction, often that we’re not expecting. In fact, I think that some of the greatest sense of beauty, and love, is when we are not expecting it . . . when the ‘awakening’ of a sense of love catches us off guard. Often, that’s when beauty is felt most I think.
This fact shows that beauty is dependent on our state of mind. It’s not always “there” existing, as a tangible constant thing. As a result, what may be beautiful one day may not be the next. Not only that, the sense of beauty cannot always be replicated . . . just because you see something today that you thought was beautiful yesterday does not mean that you will see it in the same light again. Typically, we think beauty is an object or a thing or scenery or something similar . . . generally, a material object of some form. But, in actuality, these only initiate a sense of beauty as beauty is really a state of mind. This means that the seeking of the beauty in things is not the seeking of a beautiful ‘thing’ but, rather, a specific state of mind. Often, in finding this state of mind, we tend to find beauty in all things.
I should point out that the sense of love, as I use it here, does not mean romantic love. To me, it refers to something more. Here are some characteristics of this sense:
- A sense of someone or something watching over us. We tend to feel that someone or something is looking out for us.
- A sense of belonging. With the sense that something is watching over us there is a sense of belonging to that something. In fact, there’s often a sense that one is just a small part of a larger thing.
- A sense of a bond. With the something that we belong to there is a sense of a bond to that something and that this bond connects us, unites us and, in many ways, makes us “one”. Many people often associate this sense of a bond with “love”.
- A sense of safety. There is a sense that one is not being threatened in any way.
- A putting down of ones ‘defenses’. The sense of love often makes one feel so calm that you can let down your ‘defenses’. These ‘defenses’ often consists of attitudes or stances one takes (such as being nervous or anxious, suspicious, uptight, cautious, and such). They are attitudes that are intended to protects us from some threat. A peculiar quality of the ‘defenses’ is that they hinder the sense of love and prevent it from manifesting. As a result, to truly feel a sense of love ones ‘defences’ must be put down. In the condition of love there is no need for defences.
- A sense of openness. With the qualities above there is a sense of complete openness, that one does not have to hide from anything. In many ways, this is the great end of the sense of love.
In some respects, it resembles a ‘babe in a crib’, which it no doubt originates from and imitates. And, just as a ‘babe in a crib’, it refers to a general sense, not just a feeling toward an object. There is a tendency that, when we feel the beautiful and the sense of love, we think it is toward an object (though it can even be a situation, a condition, or something similar). But what we find is that it’s not the object that we “love”, necessarily, but whats behind it. As a result, the loving we feel is actually toward a ‘sense’ an ‘awareness’ that the object invokes in us. This ‘sense’ reflects that it is a state of mind, as I spoke of above, and that the sense of love – the beautiful – is a reflection of that state of mind.
Because the sense of love is a state of mind, and goes beyond any object, it tends to continue into other states of mind and conditions revealing other aspects of this sense. If it progresses it can turn into a love of the “eternal” (which is really god). In many ways, when this sense is reached love is detached from any object. This is when the sense of love is sensed for itself, independent of any object, as if it was an entity in itself. This makes it, in a way, one of the purer forms of love. This creates a sense of what I call the “beauty of the eternal”. This is a wonderful and profound sense of love.
But, in the beauty of the eternal, another sense can develop: a sense of horror. This horror, to me, is often very much associated with the beautiful and the eternal . . . sort of like its flip-side. I often associate it with a tendency to ‘over-love’, or the tendency of over-reaching of oneself in the sensing of love. Because of this, one ‘goes beyond oneself’. When one does this, a person is as if removed from themselves, as if ‘split’ apart from who they are. In some respects, one ‘loses’ themselves in the ‘beautiful’ and the eternal, forgetting who and what they are, and all that remains is the sense of the love of the beautiful and eternal. Horror is a common and normal reaction to this ‘losing of oneself’.
Most people, though, stop before the horror, and do not go beyond it. They tend to “suspend” themselves in the joy of the beautiful. Often, this “suspension” is experienced for only a matter of seconds, though it may seem longer. This is because the “beauty of the eternal” often has a quality of being ‘timeless’, often as if it goes on forever. As a result, when one feels it, even briefly, it often seems quite a long time. This “suspension” (the sense of joy) is often perceived as the purpose of the beautiful. This is the beautiful-as-emotion type of beautiful. But it can go further than this . . .
For some people, they go beyond the emotion . . . the sense of love takes us even beyond our self moving us into a sense of horror. This is the beautiful-as-going-beyond-our-self type of beautiful. I tend to feel that it takes a special person to embrace the horror and go beyond themselves. It takes an even more special person to overcome it, I think. I should point out that the horror may not necessarily be experienced as a horror-as-an-emotion but by some other emotion or feeling. In fact, it could encompass a wide range of emotions such as guilt, boredom, a sense of unworthiness, frustration, a sense of insecurity, etc. What horror, and all these emotions do, in the end, is stop the sense of ‘love’, bringing it to a halt. They have a quality of a wall, something that stops you in your tracks.
This horror and wall creates a tendency to seek to overcome it. It seems to me that overcoming this horror and wall is when the power of the beautiful is most profound. In fact, the overcoming of the ‘horror of the eternal’ tends to lead to a great sense of spiritualness. This shows that the “beautiful” is really a spiritual sense, making it more than an emotion or a simple reaction to something. Because of this, most people who reach this point are spiritually inclined.
Typically, the overcoming of the ‘horror of the eternal’ tends to lead to a self-transformation of oneself. It causes a change in oneself, an alteration, a growth. This is because we go beyond ourselves, of who we are. When we go beyond ourself we become different from what we were. As a result, the ‘beautiful’ can have great and far-reaching effects on a person. It makes the beautiful more personal and deep and more profound. Truly, though, thats when things become “beautiful”.
This seems to show that there is something like a ‘cycle of the beautiful’ which goes like:
- Observing the object or thing.
- A sense of beauty (the sense of love that the object or thing invokes).
- A love of the eternal (the sense of love detached from the object or thing).
- A horror of the eternal or beautiful (going beyond oneself).
This whole cycle is like going from one extreme to the other – object to non-object – with the passion of the love as a force and ones self as the medium. In the process, the self is changed. A person also goes from one extreme to the other emotion-wise as well: love to horror. As a result of this, the sense of ‘beautiful’ instills in us a great totality of life. Because of this, I think it creates an overall sense of the ‘beauty’ of life as a whole.