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Notes on the Need For Beauty
Date of Review: 
May.01.2007
Reviewer: 
Frederic and Mary Ann Brussat
Source: 
Spirituality and Practice

J. Ruth Gendler is an artist and teacher. She is author of The Book of Qualities and the editor of Changing Light: The Eternal Cycle of Night and Day. In this enthralling paperback, she presents an imaginative, ambitious, creative, and deeply spiritual exploration of our need for beauty. This engaging work is richly enhanced by her delightful drawings scattered throughout the book. Whether you are moved by the beauty of a Beethoven symphony, the paintings of Georgia O'Keeffe, or the singing of Barbra Streisand, you will find ample spiritual refreshment on these pages. Gendler states:

"Beauty breaks us open and connects us to the hearts of others, the soul of the world, deepens our connections with the places we live and dream about, the people we love, animals and plants, trees and rivers. Beauty opens the door to creativity and wisdom."

Beauty is a bridge-builder, and it takes us on adventuresome journeys to faraway places. It stire our senses. Gendler includes plenty of thought-provoking material on colors, light, masks, clothes, and body decorations. She reminds us that the Navajo see beauty in terms of relationship, and in Kabbalah, beauty is where spirit and form meet and the human and the divine are in balance. It is helpful to be reminded that beauty is related to words such as beatitude, blessed, and good. In our commercial culture animated by advertising, our images of beauty have more to do with perfection than with awe, harmony and nobility.

Gendler gathered beauty stories from many people, and they are sprinkled throughout the book. Here are some of the many thoughts, stories, anecdotes and quotations that bubble up:

• There is a mystery and a magic to beauty that cannot be measured or quantified.

• "I have come to believe that by attending to beauty and enlarging our sense of beauty, we are able to live with greater appreciation, engagement, wonder, and reverence."

• Notice the light that emanates from enthusiastic people who are so beautiful inside.

• "The billboards, the ads, the magazine covers, the models and the actresses present us with improbable images of beauty, created under the surgeon's knife, refined through hours and hours of beauty treatments, manipulated by sophisticated computer programs."

• "Perhaps it is our love for earth and other animals, our belonging to life, that offers the biggest beauty secret of all."

• It is horrifying to realize how many people have negative views of their bodies and compare themselves unfavorably with others.

• Artists have done us all a great service by showing us what other people consider to be ugly as being filled with creativity and energy.

• The Japanese aesthetic wabi-sabi shows the beauty in well-worn and tattered objects.

• Think of the positive energy in clothes made by a friend or loved one.

• "Beauty connects us to what is holy."

Notes on the Need for Beauty