“Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.” ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson, Essays and Lectures …
In his essay “Self-Reliance”, Emerson wrote, “travelling is a fool’s paradise.” He said that we could dream of travelling to Naples, or Rome, and think to ourselves that we will be intoxicated with beauty, but after packing our bags and going there, come to realize that we are there with our same selves—that “our giant goes with us wherever we go. ” And if that self always looks for beauty elsewhere, then we will fail to find it wherever we go, for beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder. Thus, to find the beautiful, we must first be aware of the beauty around us, so that we can then see it, experience it, and carry it in our hearts. Carrying beauty within us is having the ability to see, to appreciate, and to love beauty both when it is in front of us as well as when it is not.
Every moment of the day there is an infinite amount of beauty that surrounds us, but we must choose to see it. And as we begin to grow more aware of this beauty–the beauty in the ordinary–things that we previously found unpleasant or ugly, slowly cease to exist; out of the drab nothingness… beauty will take root. And when we hear others talking about how awful something or somewhere is, we will find ourselves looking past their illusions and misperceptions, imagining such things with much more beauty in mind, as if in all their glory, and we will feel sorry for their inability to notice the beauty–both realized and potential.
Our world is amazing. And if we wish to see and appreciate all the wondrous beauty, we have to train ourselves to recognize the beauty in things that surround us as we travel the world over. And if we find things in our world becoming ordinary, drab, unpleasant, or ugly, then perhaps we should take some time to reflect on where that ugliness is coming from: it is not in the things, but in the ways in which we see those things; it comes from inside of us, not from the thing itself. The good news is that is something that we can learn to change.
There are, of course, some ugly things in this world–such as violence, abuse, hatred, injustice, selfishness, and pride–and we should see such things as they are. Nevertheless, if we really want to get in touch with the beauty in the world, then we need to recognize that it depends upon us to see it. Thus, we should not spend so much time looking in other places for something that we already have inside us.
Look for beauty in some of the ordinary, everyday things that surround you.
Questions to consider:
How do people lose the idea that they bring beauty with them–or leave it behind when they see beautiful things?
What is the inherent limitation in believing that beauty is in the objects that we see, as opposed to being in the ways that we see those things?
Have you ever thought something was beautiful, only to have someone else say it was ugly? What was the difference in perspective? Likewise, have you ever seen something as ugly that someone else thought was beautiful?
For further thought:
“The fact that we can’t see the beauty in something doesn’t suggest that it’s not there. Rather, it suggests that we are not looking carefully enough or with a broad enough perspective to see it.” ~ Richard Carlson, Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff and It’s All Small Stuff