Beautiful in Spirit

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Defined: beautiful – having qualities of beauty; exciting aesthetic pleasure; generally pleasing; excellent. Beauty – the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit; loveliness. Spirit – an animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms; the immaterial intelligent or sentient part of a person; the feeling, quality or disposition characterizing something; a person having a character or disposition of a specified nature; general intent or real meaning.

What does the phrase “beautiful in spirit” mean? As we can see from the definitions, the phrase can mean different things to different people. Take the beauty part of this phrase for instance. If we have several people look at an assortment of paintings and then ask each person which painting is beautiful, we could have each person select a painting that is different from the choices the other people in the group made, assuming there are enough paintings to choose from. We can also have the group as a whole say that all the paintings are beautiful, yet one stands out as the most beautiful in the collection. As the saying goes, “beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”

What is it about an object that a person finds pleasing? Perhaps the symmetry or shape of the object strikes one as pleasing to look at. Possibly the color palette used affects the viewer in a pleasing way. If the object is one that can be touched, then perhaps the texture is pleasing. And so on. Taken as a whole, the various properties of the object being sensed are experienced as being pleasurable.

One may ask why one person may sense beauty in things that another does not? Afterall, a typical human senses things within the same range as most other humans do. Why would one find a certain color, shape, texture, sound, etc., more pleasing than another? I suggest that perception, mental associations, memories, and mood have a lot to do with it. Yet there are things that affect most people the same way regardless of the above suggestion.

One of the things that affect most people in the same way is color. Researchers know that red tends to raise blood pressure, pulse rate, respiration, and skin response (perspiration) and to excite brain waves. Blue tends to have the reverse effect, to lower blood pressure and pulse rate; skin response is less, and brain waves tend to decline.

If we take these two colors and ask different people which one they prefer we will get some choosing one and the rest the other. Perhaps the same people will choose the opposite color at another time. Why? At a certain moment a person may be in the mood for passion which is enhanced by the color red, while at another moment the same person may be in the mood for relaxation which is enhanced by the color blue.

Where do perceptions, mental associations and memories fit in? If we take that relaxing blue and use it as the main color for a seascape painting, people tend to associate that scene with past experiences that may be similar. If one happened to have had a negative experience in a similar scene, that person may actually tense up instead of relaxing.

Now let’s start to link beauty with spirit. Depending on one’s idea of what spirit is, it can be simply the intent or meaning associated with an object, place, or life form. We can expand this a bit further and say that spirit can be the usual disposition of an object, place or life form. And the ultimate expansion based upon our previous definitions would be seeing spirit as the life force within.

How does one sense intent or meaning? Most humans rely on their vision to sense these with. The second most relied upon sense for this purpose would be hearing. While these senses bring in certain information it is eventually interpreted using the brain as a collection and filtering organ. The person’s mind then makes a decision on intent. If the intent or meaning is perceived as negative then the object, place, or life form is considered displeasurable. If perceived as positive, then pleasurable. The pleasurable will have more probability of being beautiful to that person.

Most of us know that something which is visually beautiful can be quite displeasurable in its other dimensions. Let’s take a tiger for instance. Visually, I find a tiger to be a beautiful animal. But as many humans have found out, touching a tiger can have a displeasurable effect, such as being eaten! This situation can be quite beautiful from the tiger’s perspective in getting a meal, and highly displeasurable or ugly for the human being eaten.

As most of us are aware, when the term “beautiful in spirit” is used, it is usually applied to another human. As we know from experience, each individual has a normal disposition (personality or temperament) while having minor to major emotional fluctuations or outbursts. And, there is usually an intent or purpose when a person does something.

What is a beautiful intention? This can be seen as having the purpose behind one’s action to give pleasure to another, especially pleasure that exalts the mind and spirit. At the very least I suggest that it is having the intention of not causing harm to another. I would also suggest that the highest pleasure one can give to another is unconditional love. This would certainly be loveliness.

What is a beautiful disposition? It is quite possible that the person with this disposition is highly self-regulated, thus keeping his or her emotional flare-ups to a minimum. This person also strives to be harmonious within and does not intentionally cause disharmony for others.

I say we are all beautiful in spirit, although we may at times not have a beautiful intent or disposition.

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