Beauty will save the world

beautyDostoyevsky once said that beauty will save the world. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn kind of agreed with him in his 1970 Nobel Lecture. (that’s just an excerpt but it’s so worth reading.)

Beauty will save the world.

But what exactly is beauty? How can you define it?

I believe beauty is not just an abstract notion, but an experience. Impossible to define, it can just be felt.

What I find to be truly fascinating about “beauty,” and not just in the world of arts, but in our day to day lives, is that it doesn’t necessarily provide answers or raise questions. When we say about a painting being beautiful, or a person, a flower, a house, a city, a monument, we talk about something we feel. It’s irrational, illogical, and, quite frankly, I believe that our capacity to feel or experience beauty is the very foundation of your humanity; the most primordial aspect of what it means to be human.

I know a lot of artists who say they make art because they want to create something beautiful. They feel the urge to create beauty, to be able to project it on a canvas when there was nothing, to put some words together, to give a rock a different shape, and so on.

Now for the big question: how can beauty actually save the world?

Solzhenitsyn tried to answer this question in his lecture, and in a way, I agree with him, but I also believe there’s also a much more simpler answer: beauty brings the best in us, because experiencing it is never meaningless.

Beauty itself does not provide answers, or raise questions, it’s not a call for action, it’s not a plea. It just is. It can last forever, or just a few minutes, like a beautiful song. Or a sunset. And not only do we derive pleasure, but we also construct meaning from the experience.

Based on our own ideals and beliefs and set of skills, we absorb beauty and we want to do something with it. It’s rarely a passive experience. We see a beautiful painting, and we may feel the urge to make something just as beautiful. Or simply tell everyone we know about it. Or photograph it. Or just cry.

For whatever reason (or for no reason at all) beauty fills our minds and souls with emotions and thoughts. And in that moment of simple contemplation, we feel as if all of life’s questions have been answered. Pointless worries and petty frustrations are discarded. Time seems to stop, and all that’s greedy and dark and vile about our humanity evaporates.

And in that moment, no matter how long it lasts, we catch a glimpse of our own greatness.


18 thoughts on “Beauty will save the world

  1. I wish I agreed fully, but what is beauty without the frame of mind to respect it? Beauty is also not objective, it’s subjective. Beauty will not be able to save the world; rather, the ability to see beauty will save the world. The only thing to avoid is seeing it where it truly does not exist, but that is even a hard thing to do, as beauty is everywhere if you know how to look.


  2. I love your last line. That’s how I feel after I’ve written something that’s beautiful in my eyes – as though I have been able to catch a glimpse of greatness.


  3. You should check out what Saint John Paul II said about beauty saving the world….I think what you’re trying to say is that true beauty, when displayed in manners of good intention, inspires us to be that which is pure, good and true. Authentic beauty exudes what is good, pure, and honest, and it naturally has an effect on us that makes us desire to act likewise.


    • Here, I think SJP2 explains it better than me:
      “The link between good and beautiful stirs fruitful reflection. In a certain sense, beauty is the visible form of the good, just as the good is the metaphysical condition of beauty. This was well understood by the Greeks who, by fusing the two concepts, coined a term which embraces both: kalokagathía, or beauty-goodness. On this point Plato writes: ‘The power of the Good has taken refuge in the nature of the Beautiful'”.


  4. That was gorgeously written. I must say, I was quite over come with emotion by the paragraph. I do not think any one could have said it any better. I read all of your post’s and this one speaks to me the most.


  5. How do you distinguish between Beauty and mere appearance? Can something merely appear beautiful, even if it is legitimately experienced by an observer as beautiful? In other words, either beauty emanates from within us, encoded in our genes such that certain objects outside of us trigger the experience, or it exists objectively outside of us and we merely have the capacity to recognize and revel in it. Throughout this piece you yaw between the two, so I wonder which it is?


  6. I used to believe this in addition to education, but the Third Reich proved me wrong. I suspect only individual kindness and responsibility turning into collective courage and compassion key. Thank you for a beautiful image and post.


  7. I completely agree: experiencing beauty is rarely a passive experience. Even as I read this article, flashes of images and moments that I consider most beautiful rushed into my mind, images that I can trace back to at least 10 years ago if not more.

    It’s a powerful thought, to believe beauty helps make this world better. Thank you for getting me started on this.


  8. I really enjoyed this. However, it made me think that maybe it’s not beauty itself that will save the world but the search for beauty that will. Beauty is subjective and like you said we all experience and absorb it differently. So maybe if people can change their mindstate to look for the beauty in the world, even in the worst situations such as death, maybe then we will all be able to “catch a glimpse of our own greatness”.


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