Do we think beauty, or do we feel beauty? Is beauty a thought, or is beauty a feeling? Richard Seymour explores this question in his TED talk which I’d encourage you to listen to. I do not intend to summarize his work, but to hold the question before us. Is beauty a thought or a feeling? Put another way–which helps me ponder this–is beauty a thought or an experience?
Beauty makes a difference. I can tell you, anecdotally, that when I play beautiful music while my students take tests or write stories, they settle in and become focused on their work more quickly and perhaps more deeply than if the room is just silent. When I have a beautiful scene projected on the screen when students come into the room, they focus and engage almost immediately. When I notice that something they have drawn or something they have written is beautiful, they give me their undivided attention.
Beauty in our lives matters. Beauty has the power to transform our attitudes, our dispositions, our focus, our abitlity to relate to and commune with what we have percieved to be–up until the moment of beauty–as external to ourselves.
That gives away the answer, doesn’t it? Beauty is an experience. It is not a thought. Thought allows us to be the observer of something outside ourselves, even of something personal which we have not yet integrated into ourselves. Experience is something that allows us to merge with what was perceived as external to us. We and the other become one, and we feel it in all our ways: we see, we hear, we smell, we taste, we feel with waves of sensations through our tactile body.
What brings you to these experiences? Whatever or whoever brings you to experiences of beauty is a muse to you. Beauty has the power to transform, so let us be grateful to our muses who deliver us to the experiences of beauty.