This is part two in a series about showing up to life in your best three-piece suit; goodness, truth and beauty. The first article looked at truth which is tangible and measurable like a resume of life achievements. But truth is only meaningful when combined with goodness (ethics) and beauty (self expression).
This piece is focused on the beauty of self expression. Beauty is one of truth’s many forms. Helen Keller had incredible insight into beauty that is not tangible. She said,
The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched – they must be felt with the heart.
The poet Keats said, “Beauty is truth and truth beauty. That is all you need to know.” But maybe this is not always true. Sometimes we get dazzled by beauty and lose sight of the truth.
Comedian, Stephen Colbert, introduced the word ”truthiness” that became word of the year in 2006. Truthiness is when emotions or perception, spin or group think, rule over common sense. Truthiness is a wolf dressed up in truth’s clothing, a half truth at best and often the wrong half. Beware of truthiness.
The German philosopher Jurgen Habermas offered a minor variation on Plato’s good, true and beautiful life. He spoke about truth, truthfulness and justice. Truthfulness is beautiful authenticity, being true to yourself. The more you understand yourself, the more you understand what your truth is. You seek more of it by BEING more of it, and it finds you because it IS you. What you want, what the world needs and who you are coincide. Or in other words, what is beautiful, what is good and what is true, become one.
Truth is good. The inner beauty of truthfulness is even more powerful. Take for example the incredible work of Belgian artist Francis Alÿs. He created a piece called Moving Mountains which included 500 volunteers standing at the bottom of a sand dune near Lima, Peru. He chose the location because it is a place full of refugees, a poverty stricken, and landless community. The 500 people lined up at the bottom of the sand dune with shovels. He synchronized them so they took a shovel and moved it forward at exactly the same time. Over the course of a couple of hours they succeeded in moving the mountain 4 inches.
4 inches is almost nothing. And yet it would have taken the wind years to move the mountain the same distance. His project contained all the elements of truth, beauty and goodness. The effect was tangible and measurable. It was a beautiful and artistic expression of passion. And it achieved something good for the refugees of Lima. Future generations would look back on the day that the mountain was moved. It would inspire something deep within them to believe that even seemingly insurmountable odds can be overcome.
Aim to end your life with empty pockets, spent from passion and perseverance. When truth, goodness and beauty coincide the outcome is not the measurement. 4 inches is perfect. One step is awesome. One person is enough. You don’t have to solve all the problems of the world to lead a good life. Just love what you love and let beauty guide you.
As Rumi said,
Let the beauty of what you love be what you do.