- Mental Health
Beauty We Feel Beyond What We See
Beauty is not considered an emotion,1 yet we experience it from a sequence or mix of pleasant emotions.
- The eyes see the attractive object,
- the ears hear the vocal harmony,
- the nose smells the fragrant perfume,
- the tongue tastes the gourmet flavor,
- the fingers touch the smooth softness.
These sensations give us pleasure, but it is not until we engage the heart that we feel the beauty in the sensations.
Helen Keller on Beauty
“The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart.”
What do you think was on Helen Keller’s list of the “best and most beautiful things in the world?” She was blind and deaf, but she could touch; still, she excluded tangible objects, making it clear that her emphasis was beauty of intangibles we can only feel—with the heart.
Designer Richard Seymour,2 in his TED talk about our responses to beauty, showed a very basic stick figure of a flower to the audience. He asked whether they thought it was beautiful. He could see that they thought and felt nothing beautiful about the drawing, for while they looked, he remarked, “There's some rather bored-looking gentlemen and some slightly engaged-looking ladies . . .”
Then Seymour added, “This is the last act on this Earth of a little girl called Heidi, five years old, before she died of cancer to the spine. . . Is it beautiful now?” They obviously felt something and at least one individual began to cry.
When we feel the beauty, our response is physiological. As Seymour points out, that response is not always beautiful to look at. We stare with mouths open, eyebrows lifted and eyes bulging. We may even tear up while we smile. There is a parade of emotions inside us begging us to feel, and when the heart feels beauty, the look of beauty is not our main concern.
Beauty the Heart Feels
Beautiful things happen around us all day, and of the ones we notice, we may simply say, “That’s beautiful.” That quickie, automatic recognition of beauty hardly benefits us. It’s like calling Heidi’s stick flower beautiful, but missing the real beauty of innocence and courage that it represents.
When we move beyond the visual as Keller suggested, we discover many other types beauty that our hearts can feel.
Can your heart feel the beauty beyond what your eyes see here?
Can you feel the beauty in scenarios like the following?
- The beauty of confidence in a toddler holding her dad's hand as she tries to walk?
- The beauty of empathy in a child’s tears when he reports that his sibling is hurt;
- The beauty of kindness when the neighbor offers one cucumber from his garden;
- The beauty of courage in a family who props up each other through a series of ordeals;
- The beauty of hospitality when we offer lunch to the homeless.
Feeling the beauty allows the memory to last longer, and the impact to settle deeper. Throughout the day, we do allow some negative feelings in our hearts; how might our day be different if we lingered long enough to feel the beauty of values and emotions—things that cannot be seen or touched except by the heart?
Beauty of Resilience
My family members invited me to an outing. There were great odds, mainly mental and emotional, that made it seem easier for me to opt out. However, when the discouraging feelings subsided, I decided to go and the event turned out to be a real treat.
A few days later, I looked at a photograph of myself at the event, and my response was, “I feel beautiful.” It surprised me too.
My confession had nothing to do with the way I looked; it had to do with the memory of what I was feeling at the time of the picture, compared with the distress I could have felt otherwise. It was a beautiful feeling—the kind of beauty the heart feels when the positive defeats the negative in the struggle within us. I felt the beauty of resilience.
Can your heart feel the beauty of fearlessness?
One Last Word
According to Francis Bacon, English philosopher and author, “The best part of beauty is that which no picture can express."
The video "How Beauty Feels" at the end this article gives an explanation which is worth watching.
If you neglect the feel of beauty, you neglect the best part. The beauty that one heart feels does not have to feel beautiful to any other heart. It is a unique experience.
Let your heart feel the beauty. Enjoy the peace, relaxation and joy which accompanies the feeling.
How Beauty Feels (Highly Recommended)
1. Armstrong, Thomas et al: CiteSeerx, Beauty as an Emotion: The Exhilarating Prospect of Mastering a Challenging World, Abstract, Copyright The Pennsylvania State University, 2007-2014
2. Seymour, Richard: TED Transcript, How Beauty Feels, October 2011.
© 2014 Dora Weithers