Although I love Barnes & Noble and Amazon, I’m duly committed to the public library when it comes to reading books. And even though I consider myself pretty tech savvy, I haven’t yet been able to convert to digital books — I prefer to hold and get lost in a physical book with its often musty scented pages. Is anyone still with me on this?
I often find myself coming home with too many books that I’ll never have enough time to read before the return date — even after the four allotted online renewal cycles – sigh. But recently, I was able to get to the fourth book and I found a true gem I wanted to share.
Piero Ferrucci, transpersonal psychologist and author of the bestseller, The Power of Kindness, really left a profound impression on me with Beauty and the Soul. Nothing particularly beautiful about the cover of this impactful book, just a simple title and plain white jacket with one solitary small green leaf at its center. But its subtitle, “The Extraordinary Power Of Everyday Beauty To Heal Your Life” certainly garnered my quick attention.
Far from being a luxury or an afterthought, Ferrucci says, beauty is vital to leading a happy, balanced and satisfied life. I hadn’t ever thought about beauty being such a necessity.
He illustrates how a typical thirty year old woman with the usual concerns: career, relationships, motherhood, finances, health, etc. may not be particularly interested in beauty in the aesthetic experience because she has too much on her mind amid her hurried and busy life. He has us wonder, if she were to begin to perceive beauty everywhere, even in the simplest of things, how would her life change?
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? Ferrucci suggests that everyone knows what beautiful means but it is our relationship to beauty that effects our personality and our entire outlook on life.
In our fast paced, digital world of unrelenting stress, mass media bombardment and stimuli galore, our society, he says, assaults, haunts, seduces and at times paralyzes us to the point where we start to lose ourselves to an anonymous void of heart, without even noticing it which is a tragedy. No truer words spoken. Beauty, Ferrucci claims, can catapult us back in touch with ourselves and our spontaneous emotional life with extraordinary effects.
Beauty is all around us, not just in art museums or luxury goods, yet we often push aside our need for beauty, thinking of it as a whim, something too rare to incorporate into our everyday lives or an ‘extra’ that’s not worth our time. But beauty, Ferrucci says, is a vital human need that keeps us inspired and renewed and we will short change ourselves of living a full and satisfying life without it in regular doses.
Ferrucci credits Roberto Assagioli, the Italian psychiatrist and founder of psychosynthesis who was the first to emphasize the importance of beauty in his field, for his ideas being more relevant now than ever. In our Western society, our situation is both promising and terrifying.
On one hand, we are in contact with the whole world, our knowledge is multiplying at increasing speed and the miracles of technology are turning fairy tales into reality.
On the other hand, we are risking impoverishment, becoming slaves dashing form one errand to the next, mindlessly and ever consuming but never satisfied. We become ghosts in our relations because we are too submerged by so many stimuli and too distracted to the point of being absent. This is the poverty of the affluent, he states, the lack of meaning, values, beauty. This is the wasteland of the soul: we think we can have everything, but, in the end, we have nothing.
Now add in ugliness which marches on and invades our lives. Just as beauty heals, stimulates and inspires, ugliness in all its forms has a destructive effect, making us feel weak and incapable which creates disharmony and chaos in our inner world. Not satisfying our need for beauty can generate depression, restlessness, a sense of futility, inexplicable aggression and pathologies of all kinds.
In order to combat ugliness and impoverishment, Ferrucci implores us to stimulate and deepen our perception of beauty — our aesthetic intelligence. Through stories, case studies, clinical histories, scientific research and anecdotes, he illustrates how different kinds of beauty complement and complete our lives in different ways. Opening up to beauty in our lives can increase our capacity for empathy and feeling of connection to the world, providing us with a more intense love of life, a richer inner world, a stronger identity and self esteem, a greater competence in decision making and a deeper understanding of existence.
All that for the price of appreciating more beauty in my life? I’m in!
The experience of beauty is multidimensional consisting of both range and depth. In appreciating its various expressions, we have a revelation and discover a hidden aspect of the world. Some people are just barely touched by beauty. They notice it, but are not really moved. Or worse, they see it as a useless luxury. To them, it remains external and temporary.
Others, like myself, feel that beauty penetrates them, moves them and often times, overwhelms them to great emotion. It is a battery that recharges us, and sometimes I need to remind myself of its critical value when my I find my reserves running low.
Beauty is not a distant satellite, but a sun that gives life and light to all areas of our lives. Beauty and the Soul certainly shed a beautiful light into my world and I highly recommend it as a Must Read!
And here’s some Unexpected Beauty you might enjoy as well!