“How we see the world is how we value it.” -Ellen Davis

“The love of the beauty of the world . . . involves . . . the love of all the truly precious things that bad fortune can destroy. The truly precious things are those forming ladders reaching toward the beauty of the world, openings onto it.” –Simone Weil

Standard definitions of beauty inform our ideas and understanding of this word in life and art. Wikipedia ( does a good job of speaking to the experience of beauty. Many eloquent books and philosophical essays have been written about this extraordinary quality and topic. And there is a personal, sensory response to the word that comes without words. How could I fully describe in words the experience of breathing?

My meaning of beauty does not exclude pain, difficulty or trauma. Beauty has the potential to reveal itself, amaze, hold and sustain us in our darkest times. In all its forms, natural, artistic, moral, playful, relational and spiritual (see my post about types of beauty), beauty is to human-beingness as oxygen is to our physical bodies. As we nurture it, it nurtures us inside and out. It has the potential to bring a ray of light to the darkest of places.

I am most alive in moments when in an expanded consciousness of beauty. While learning to paint in the realist tradition, showing others my work is part of the process. I created this blog to share my exploration and the deeply meaningful and significant life-altering junctures when something beautiful steps us through, nurtures us in our darkest times, and amazes us.

A Cherokee Tale:

A Cherokee is telling his grandson about a fight
that is going on inside himself.
He said it is between 2 wolves.

One is evil: Anger, envy, sorrow, regret,
fearful thinking, greed, arrogance, self-pity,
guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies,
false pride, superiority and ego.

The other is good: Joy, peace, love, hope, serenity,
humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity,
truth, compassion and faith.

The grandson thought about it for a minute
and then asked his grandfather, “Which wolf wins?”

The Cherokee simply replied, “The one I feed.”

~ Author Unknown ~

This blog is an invitation to feed, sense, notice, be-with, think about, appreciate, argue and focus with beauty. What is your sense of the meaning(s) of beauty?

Beauty is…amazement, simple kindness, safety, transcendence, contentedness, strength, ease…big, small…simple, complex…awe, peace, the thrill of aliveness, cosmic, earthly…kindness, gratitude…vast, simple, aliveness, inspiration…beingness, oneness, nature, humanness…intelligence, balance, vulnerability…the preciousness of life and the need to take care of it…

I am reminded now of one of the very worst days of my life: 9/11/01. I was living in the West Village in New York City, getting ready to see a client in my near-by office. I am sometimes preoccupied with thoughts and projects and do not pay particular attention to the weather. However, before “it” all happened, this was a not-to-be-missed early morning. The air and light were as crystal clear and colorful as could be, there was a delightful quietude in my morning and the hush in the air as the day began felt just right. A friend called me on the phone and, as always, I was delighted to hear his voice.

However, he had called to alert me to the events that were beginning to rupture the world. I ran down my street to the place where 6th Avenue, 8th Street and Greenwich Avenue meet, a well-known crossroads. While I stared up at the World Trade Center, to observe where the first plane had struck just minutes before, I also looked over to see people staring up in shock with me. As I recall now, there was already a sense of confusion and bewilderment at how the trauma of what was happening and the beautiful day that held us in sunlight were there all at once.

I am still awed by the people I experienced those first moments and days after the events. Like the sun that day, we were kind and respectful to one another in such generous and gentle ways. People cared for each other without question. At this most painful of times, we found nurturance in each other’s presence; the meaning of beauty. Through all of life’s terrible experiences and disconnections, though we may often forget, this deeply meaningful essence is present in our humanness.

Blue Enso (Painting with Marble Dust) © Leslie Wagner 2011

Hopeful Tissue Box (Pencil on Paper) © Robin Kappy 11/2011

2 Responses to BEAUTY

  1. Ina Claire Gabler says:

    I was moved by your account of the way 9/11/01 began as a beautiful day and within that beautiful day, you witnessed something evil beyond the moment’s comprehension even as the destruction took place. I was struck by your description of the persistence of beauty embracing the horrific, including the human beauty of gentleness and kindness emerging that darkest moment. This is a haunting and strangely soothing image. I also was moved by the writing, full of earnestness and grace. The paintings are wonderful, each in their own way. I especially like “Painting with Marble Dust.”

  2. Marguerite says:

    Great post, really enjoyed it!
    — Marguerite

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s