To exist, one must feed the body, but to truly live, one must feed the soul. Spirituality and beauty are mana for the soul.
Yet what are they exactly? I believe somewhat in Plato’s concept of Forms. Forms are the perfect models that our world imitates imperfectly (see this Wikipedia article). I prefer to think of Forms as 4-D concepts that lose some luster when translated into our 3-D world.
This idea has its flaws (ask any academically trained philosopher), but I think it’s a rather simple and elegant way of understanding spirituality and beauty. They are great oceans, and we are only able to capture tiny quantities with our imperfect vessels such as religion, music, and art. This analogy highlights the absurdity of arguing the superiority of one religion or art form over the others when they all hold relatively small amounts of material. As no one individual or group owns the oceans, how can they claim authority over spirituality or beauty?
Rather than battle over the rights to be ‘king of the hill,’ it would be much simpler to say that they are all different but equally valid viewpoints of the same thing. Some people are very opposed to this idea of ‘relativism,’ arguing that there can be no objective truth if it’s all a matter of perspective. I would say that there is an objective truth, but it’s not black or white – it’s gray.
Consider the example of the light particle-wave. Physicists were stumped in the early 20th century when they were confronted with two lines of experiments: one showing that light behaved as a wave and another showing that it was a particle. Finally, they had to accept the mind-boggling conclusion that it was both, depending on how you tested it. And this isn’t even the most bizarre case; quantum physics is full of stranger stuff than this. If the basic building blocks of the universe behave in ways that defy logic, why should spirituality and beauty be any different?
Thus, there is no ‘right way’ to experience spirituality or textbook definition of beauty – every religion and art form holds a small fragment of the greater whole. Yet there do seem to be underlying principles, and I shared some of them below. Clearly the list is far from exhaustive. Even adding up the works of all the renowned artists and thinkers throughout all of human history would not paint satisfactory pictures of spirituality and beauty, and this is just as well – let them remain endless wellsprings of inspiration for all time.
I hope that you find this list helpful or that it inspires you to make your own. Find what resonates with you and be fulfilled.
Principles of Spirituality
Newness – There is something refreshing and absolutely necessary about it for personal growth and fulfillment.
- Discovering something new about yourself, life, and/or how the world works
- Hearing about a great new idea
- Spring and sunrise
Oneness – Something clicks when everyone is on the same page, and everything elevates to a whole different level. Many people would find these beautiful as well.
- Group dynamic – Great teamwork and group worship
- Chemistry – Love and camaraderie
Transcendence – When you feel like you are in the presence of something truly special or awe inspiring.
- Virtues that defy self-interest – Kindness, generosity, sacrifice
- Forgiveness – It must be divine because sometimes it feels impossible to do. When you have been wronged, and every fiber of your being wants to retaliate – you let it go
- Triumph of the human spirit – Succeeding over incredible odds, everyday heroes that rise to the occasion
- Music – Might very well be a gift from the gods. Music has the power to move the soul and take you to a higher place like few other things can
- Nature – This really is an amazing world we live in. The sheer diversity of life and the intricate cycles are simply mind-boggling when you think about it.
Principles of Beauty
- Small is beautiful – Babies, puppies, kittens. Jewelry and gems become gaudy when they are too big
- Simple is elegant – Computer code that contains no unnecessary lines. Simple mathematic expressions of theories, ie. E=mc2
- Order is beautiful to a point – A picture of how everything fits together is beautiful, but when everything is controlled to adhere to a certain order, it becomes oppressive – ie. the Machine. Beauty requires a certain degree order, but it also needs the freedom to be expressive and creative
Diversity and individuality
- Individuality – If you go to older places in America, the houses are smaller and distinctly different from each other. This give the place a certain charm that a newer neighborhood lacks because its houses are all built by the same builder using the same handful of floor plans.
- Variety/Diversity – They make the world beautiful as well as interesting. Can you imagine what the world would be like if everyone looked the same, dressed the same, and had the same interests?
Nature – My words are too poor to do this section justice. Picture are worth a thousand words, so I invite you to visit the gallery
- Water – Babbling brooks, waterfalls, snowflakes, great oceans and lakes
- Light – Auroras, sunlight glittering across the surface of a lake, the stars, moonglow, sunset, sunrise
- Color – Rainbows, flowers, tropical fish, golden sunshine, green grass, blue sky, aquamarine water, white sand beaches
Dead poets live