The same could be said of beauty. It should not exist.

There is not only no reason for it, but an argument against.

Yet undoubtedly it is, and is different from ugliness.

Czesław Miłosz, “One More Day”

 

Very simply, we yearn for beauty. And this yearning is fundamental to who we are as humans.

And as Czesław Miłosz reminds us in “One More Day,” beauty is not utilitarian, it does not “accomplish” anything for us or get something done. But it exists.

(And don’t give me that “What is beauty?” nonsense—you know it when you see it/hear it/experience it.)

I love the way Tony Hoagland likewise reminds us of this in a down-to-earth, day-by-day way in his poem “The Word” (from Sweet Ruin, University of Wisconsin Press, 1992):

The Word

Tony Hoagland

Down near the bottom
of the crossed-out list
of things you have to do today,

between “green thread”
and “broccoli” you find
that you have penciled “sunlight.”

Resting on the page, the word
is as beautiful, it touches you
as if you had a friend

and sunlight were a present
he had sent you from some place distant
as this morning — to cheer you up,

and to remind you that,
among your duties, pleasure
is a thing

that also needs accomplishing
Do you remember?
that time and light are kinds

of love, and love
is no less practical
than a coffee grinder

or a safe spare tire?
Tomorrow you may be utterly
without a clue

but today you get a telegram,
from the heart in exile
proclaiming that the kingdom

still exists,
the king and queen alive,
still speaking to their children,

–to any one among them
who can find the time,
to sit out in the sun and listen.

Join us in ART/PHIL 331, Aesthetics, this fall to continue the conversation. But again, very simply, a yearning for beauty is fundamental to who we are as humans, all humans, of all times and places.

Which is why we seek it out . . .

  • in artworks
  • in everyday objects
  • in fabric and clothing
  • in our food
  • in our actions and activities
  • in our relationships
  • in our own life

Which is why we create it . . .

  • in artworks
  • in everyday objects
  • in fabric and clothing
  • in our food
  • in our actions and activities
  • in our relationships
  • in our own life

Remember . . .

Good is stronger than evil.

Love is as practical as your coffee grinder or spare tire.

Beauty undoubtedly exists, and it is stronger than non-beauty.

So don’t forget to put “beauty” on your to-do list for today. And seek it out. And create it.

Our lives depend on it.