Do you find beauty in art and in life? Josh Clare shares his inspiration for being an artist in this moving piece on the existence and source of beauty.
by Josh Clare
We have all had the privilege of experiencing beauty, some are more receptive to it than others, but every human soul has encountered it. Mankind’s experience with beauty is so universal that the question is not whether or not there is such a thing as beauty, but rather how we come to know, for ourselves, that beauty truly exists. I believe that beauty is trying to teach us that the most important things in life can be known only by those who are willing to go beyond believing what they see, and who have the courage to trust in what they feel—those who have faith.
So, how do we know that beauty is real? The human experience with true beauty is not physical or intellectual, but spiritual; it happens deep down in that part of us frequently called the heart or the spirit—the part of us that loves, desires, dreams, and feels. I’m not suggesting that science and reason are not valid means for learning, growing, and coming to a knowledge of things ‘as they really are,’ what I’m saying is that they are simply not enough.
We don’t know beauty when we see it; we know it when we feel it. If you’re a mother or a father, think about the way it felt to hold your newborn baby (they’re really not that great looking right after birth, I know, my wife and I have been blessed with five children) but they’re beautiful, beautiful beyond anything earthly; and it’s not because of their color or their proportions, not because of the way they smell or the way they sound, they’re beautiful because of the way they feel. Their perfect spirits touch ours, and we know—truly know—beauty.
This belief in something real that can’t be seen or proven is faith. Every time you say, “that’s beautiful,” you declare your faith in beauty – faith based upon personal experience that cannot be shared or even fully explained.
I was reminded of this on a trip to the San Diego Museum of Art a couple of years ago when I was enraptured by Nicolai Fechin’s painting, “Indian Maid Seated,” and my wife wasn’t as moved. I tried hard to explain to her why I was in such ecstasies over that painting, but I couldn’t argue her into feeling it. She understood everything I said about color temperature and variety of edge and drawing and values and tonal arrangement, but the feeling of beauty that had flooded my soul just wouldn’t flood hers. I realized then that whoever it is that pours beauty into our souls, it’s certainly not me. We don’t know beauty when we see it—and much less when someone tries to convince us it’s there—we know it when we feel it.
Consider a moment in your own life that has been truly transcendent—a time when you were able to touch that beauty that seems to come from someplace else. Many would have you believe that your experience was a mere biological impulse or reaction, that it was meaningless and random—that it wasn’t real; but my own experiences with beauty have been more real than life itself in many ways—they’ve been moments of perfect clarity, when everything meaningless and false falls to the ground and I see things as they are. Those moments are sacred to me—they’re the reason I love art, the reason I’m an artist.
I believe in beauty, not because it’s logical, or reasonable, but because I’ve experienced beauty for myself, and I know that it is real. Thank God for beauty and for the joy that it brings us, for the light that it shines into ours from a world higher than our own. Thank God for eyes that can learn to see and hearts that can learn to feel. And thank God for those among us who, having learned to see, are selfless enough to share their vision of things as they really are.
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