—H. B. Stowe
We sometimes think we are living in a world where there is much that is disagreeable, much that jars upon the mind and upon the nerves. We think the things we have to encounter make us nervous. We go into the street and see things that are not always pleasant to , look upon. We hear all kinds of noises and feel the spirit of rush and hurry, and lose sight of much good, because we are not looking for it.
It is possible to live in a great city, to come in contact with all the energy, with all the beauty, all the strength of it, and instead of being filled with a sense of nervousness or a disagreeable feeling, to so adjust ourselves to it that it becomes an inspiration to our lives.
We often say that the country is an inspiration to life; that it is so wearying, so trying in the city. The wearying, the trying, part is the way we adjust ourselves to life, since we are sometimes thoroughly contented and happy in the city. Regardless of all the noises, of the strenuous life people live, they are sometimes restful and happy. It is the way we are related to everything in life that gives us the beauty, the strength, and the harmony of life. The country has its advantages; the city has also. While we are living in the city we should get all that is possible from the city life, and while we are living in the country we should get all that is possible from the country life.
Someone has said that God made the country and man-made the city. If we are living in a large city, then we are coming in touch with man's handiwork. We are coming in touch with the brain that thought that handiwork into existence. In reality, in a great city we are getting very near the center of human life. We find that every phase of it, every grade of it, as we are related to it, may be helpful to us or the reverse. There are the noises and the rush. We sometimes feel when we get into them we are a part of them. We rush ourselves, to keep up, as we might say, with the procession. When I first came to New York many years ago, and found the people hurrying as I had never hurried in my life, I fell into the hurry, and was so carried away by it that I hurried too. By and by I asked myself what it all meant; what was the necessity of it? I found that men who, for instance, had apparently been hurrying to do something, stopped and looked into a store window, and spent perhaps minutes of time. It came to me that they were not in a great hurry to accomplish something, but that they had fallen into the spirit of hurry, and when something came up that arrested their attention for a few minutes they forgot about their hurry.
There come times when we should think quickly and act quickly without getting into the spirit of rush, and I found after a time, that when I needed to think quickly, or to act quickly, I could do it without getting into the spirit of hurry.
Again, I found it hard to get adjusted to the noise. It had its effect upon the nervous system, and I thought I should like to be where it was quiet. Then it came to me that this rush, hurry, and noise were all expressions of human energy, and that each was good in its right place; and that if I could get above it, instead of being unrestful and discordant, it would inspire me with a greater sense of strength. That if I could get at any real understanding of the noise it would no longer affect me nor produce any degree of nervousness, but rather the reverse. I began to feel that I was part of it in a way, yet not necessarily a discordant part.
So we can come closer to the great energy that permeates a large city. Then, if we begin to see and to think about the expression, about the wonderful buildings which tower away up into the heavens, we see that not all of them are beautiful, though conveying to the mind wonder, strength, and power. Occasionally we see that the beauty vies with the strength and power, as though the architect had expressed himself in as beautiful a way as he knew how, though realizing his limitations. He was able to express the strength and power, but was unable to express to the same degree the beauty. We see a more constant effort being made to express beauty in architecture in our public buildings, but the trouble with our people is that when they go abroad and see things that convey the sense of beauty and proportion, they return home and are not satisfied with a copy. They want to outdo it, and in the effort, make mistakes.
More and more, however, we are finding that it is not in trying to outdo, or in trying to copy after people that the true expression of beauty comes. It is rather through an effort to represent our own thoughts.
On every side of city life we see evidence of a greater desire to' express the beautiful. If we look back twenty-five or thirty years and consider the architecture in our country, we find we have made wonderful progress. We see changes for the better in almost every direction. Many buildings in our cities cannot be called things of beauty, but they show that we are striving after beauty. There was a time when all our buildings looked very much alike. A brown-stone front was the thing to be desired, the essential thing. Now we are not satisfied with that. We want more of the beautiful, and in striving after it we go to an excess of the ornamental in architecture, and put in so much of it that it misrepresents beauty. Nevertheless these efforts give evidence of a striving for something more beautiful. Once in a while we see a really beautiful building come into existence, an effort of a master architect who has developed a love of the beautiful.
A beautiful building calls out the love of beauty in the minds of the people who see it. There is an increasing number of people who are awakening to the love of beauty. Every year more people go to our art galleries, and there is keener appreciation of good music. It is a great pity that we cannot have good music in this country without paying an exorbitant price for it, for in Europe it is possible for the very poor people to have the best music at a very small price.
It is this love of the beautiful in music, in art, and in every department of life which is the hope or evidence of progress among any people. Some enthusiasts have gone so far as to say that the love of beauty may constitute the religion of a future age, claiming that then there would be little likelihood of any disagreement, and there would be a greater unity of thought in the perception of beauty than could be brought to the worship of any other thing. I do not believe, however, that any religion can ever be founded upon the love of beauty alone. Beauty is only an outer manifestation that symbolizes something that is greater than itself, and the soul of man can never be content with the worship of symbols, no matter how great or how beautiful they may be. I believe this to be true, though that the love of beauty in the life of man shows decidedly his development, because the love of beauty is one sure indication of spiritual growth.
The love of beauty is a true radiation from the Heart of Love, but it is only one of an infinite number of rays.
It takes all of these rays to make a perfect religion. The soul will never be satisfied with anything less than perfection.
Every innate power must have outer expression. The more, however, that the mind dwells in a sense of beauty and comes in touch with the inner or higher states of life that correspond to beauty, the more beauty will mind express in the outer life. We should know that the world beautiful is our own conscious world. It expresses all that man has been or is now. It is the mirror of all that he has felt and thought. That which any individual sees or hears in this world is that which to some degree he must have helped to construct. The great outer world is man's kingdom of expression, but before there could have been a world beautiful without, there must have been one within. There must be the world beautiful of thought and thought pictures to make that inner life, that life that is the source of our world beautiful. It is in this inner world that we construct our castles.
We afterward express them outwardly, but they live first of all in the inner life. Each castle that we build, or that comes into form, must first have existed in the inner world as an ideal building. Outer things only become beautiful as the mind is able to grasp and interpret the inner beauty. The development of beauty in outer form is an ever-changing one; nothing beautiful is ever lost, but, with the expanding ideal, something is always being added to the expression of beauty.
At one stage in mental development, beauty seems to be sacrificed to size. The supreme thought of the moment is one of size. Everything must be large. Every great nation passes through this period of what we might call the hugeness of things. We are passing through it now more than has any other nation in the past, not excepting the ancient Egyptian civilization. Yet, notwithstanding, the sense of beauty is also coming into the life of the people, and we grow better able to appreciate external beauty through each succeeding generation.
I use the term "external"; yet things are not so external to us as we think. Things are the result of heart, and head, and hand, and contain something of ourselves. It is not generally known that the things we handle, and the things we do are impressed by our thought-pictures; so that a sensitive person can take up something he has never seen, and tell much of the thought that is attached to it, by holding it in his hand or close to his forehead. We leave the impress of what we feel and what we think upon so-called inanimate matter—but there is nothing inanimate.
Energy goes into everything we do. With greater concentration, directed energy expresses itself in form. Into the sculptor's statue goes something of his own life and intelligence. Remember that with his hammer and chisel he is using energy all the time, and that energy is expressing itself in, and upon the marble. It is a living, not a dead thing. He is giving it form, and to some degree, putting his life into it. We seldom stop to think how this is done. When one winds his watch he is putting some of his own life force into that watch, and until that life force has all escaped from it, the wheels revolve and the hands continue to go round. And as truly we are putting energy into everything we do in life. When a man paints a picture, and puts into it his best thought and feeling, he puts into it some of his own spirit. That is why the religious paintings of the past inspire us. Consider, as an illustration, the works of Fra Angelico—a man so inspired by the religious spirit within him that he was able to leave as a legacy to the world paintings that now, hundreds of years after he has passed from his work, still breathe with his spirit of love, veneration, and devotion. The religious paintings of the past inspire us with the feeling and sense of religion because that is the spirit in which they were worked out.
That is why Millet, one of the very greatest of all French painters, a peasant among peasants, impresses so deeply. Because he was one with the people he painted; he understood them and put their life and his own into his pictures. By putting his own thought-feeling into his paintings they became among the most famous of the modern world. When an artist does not have enough to eat, nor fire to warm himself by, but has to go out and gather a little stubble and light a fire to warm his fingers in order to paint his pictures, one can readily understand how much of his own life he puts into them. That is what Millet had to do many a time while he was creating his most wonderful masterpieces. He put so much of his life into his work, and thought so much of it, that his physical body was not sufficiently cared for, and the time came when it could work no longer. But Millet lives in the world through his paintings more than he did when here in form.
So, into everything we do, we put a part of our life and of ourselves. If we put in the beautiful part, it will not only be perceived, but will be of help to others in their unfolding, and may be the means of calling out the beautiful in those in whom the sense of beauty is not yet awakened.
We do not at first, by looking at them, appreciate the beauty in sunrise or sunset, but the looking at them often will serve to awaken in us beauty of thought, which in turn reveals the beauty in the sunset. So, when looking at a beautiful picture, the mind dwells upon it, and thus brings itself into touch with what the picture was t meant to represent—the more beautiful side of life—and in doing so, seems to call out the latent beauty which is potential in all life.
So all thought that is beautiful serves, in a sense, to educate the mind and call out the potential beauty in the life of man. That is why, no matter what we may do, we should be careful to make it as beautiful as we are capable of, for it is a symbol of what we feel and think, and therefore of our inner selves. It shows something of the life of the one making it, and serves to call out a corresponding sense of beauty and inspiration in the lives of others.
When we go into the country there are many things that attract us to them as being beautiful, while certain other things we may overlook. The flowers in the springtime perhaps appeal to us strongly, but we "do not always think of the beauty of the growing grass; we do not always think of the beauty that is to be found in what we call weeds. A few years ago the field daisy was looked upon as a weed, and there was little idea of beauty connected with it. All these things have their own beauty; in fact, if we examine anything carefully we will find that it has a certain beauty all its own that has hitherto been invisible to us. While we see the beauty in the trees, yet some of them appeal to us as being more beautiful than others. The beauty of one tree is not that of another, but each has a peculiar beauty of its own. So no two people express life the same way, yet there is something beautiful to be found in the life of every person; but we do not always find it, because we do not seek it. So often, in looking at things in nature, if some things appeal to us as being beautiful, we give all our thought and attention to them, and lose sight of many others that are equally beautiful.
Then let us strive to find beauty in the things in which we have not as yet discovered it. Sometimes we are delighted with the songs of the birds. There are other birds that do not sing, and we are not as much interested in them. A bird that has no song has certain other things to commend it to us, and we will find beauty of form or of plumage instead. And so you will find beauty in everything if you look for it, because beauty is written into everything in this world. If anything appears homely, look deeper into it, and you will certainly find beauty in it somewhere. You will find beauty of color, when perhaps beauty of form as we understand it is lacking, and if there is neither beauty of color or of form, there is always to be found something else, such as a faithful or a kind nature, which may mean far more than any beauty of form or of color. There is nothing in all the great universe that totally lacks beauty; therefore" "seek, and ye shall find."
And now, in order to be practical, what is this love of beauty going to do for us? In what way is it going to help us to find a fuller and more complete life? It is going to help us, first of all, in this way: We cannot find beauty in anything without that beauty having been unfolded in ourselves; therefore, the more of beauty we see in the external world, the more wonderfully we have developed and brought ourselves into a condition of mind whereby we can actually become helpful to others.
The sense of beauty should always convey to the mind the sense of harmony. Sometimes a thing that is beautiful conveys the idea of harmony and strength, or it may sometimes combine that of beauty and joy. There is always a union of beauty with something else, but we are not able to make the distinction unless we have first made it in ourselves. One may apparently talk intelligently on a subject without having any realization of the vital truth of what he is talking about, though he may in time awake to a realization of the inner truth. We are brought back to the point that everything outside of us is as it is, because of that which is within us; there must always be the inner understanding of life before there is an outer understanding. We come in touch with things in the outer world without knowing anything about the wonder and mystery of their life and beauty, until a knowledge of that life and beauty has unfolded in ourselves. Then we see the wonder and mystery of the great outer world in which we live.
So this love of the beautiful shows us something of our own development, and it helps to bring about a state of mental harmony. One can never get a beautiful thought of life when the mind is unrestful or discordant, therefore the sense of beauty brings rest and harmony into the mind, and keeps it open for a still larger degree of beauty. That is the reason why we should cultivate this sense of beauty in life and why we should seek for it in everything.
We should never allow the mind to become distracted, or to have its attention turned from the beautiful by anything which mars beauty. Some people, when looking at a beautiful picture, will see a slight imperfection in it. Whenever they look at that picture again, the first thing they see and point out to others is that imperfection. We want to let go of that side. We want to get the whole picture, and the spirit behind it, and not fix our attention on the little technical mistakes which are but superficial. It is the beauty of color, of form, of conception, of the composition as a whole, that should appeal to us. If we allow the mind to pick flaws in people or in things, we lose all sense of proportion. We see only the little flaw, and miss the beauty that is the real picture; and when we let the small error creep into the mind, we miss the beauty of the character of the person. So the mind is taken up in looking for the motes, as we might say, and the motes cause the mind to become unrestful. How often in listening to music, if the performer or singer strikes a false note, it is that note of which we remember to talk about. That note has apparently made the greater impression, and not the beauty of song or of expression that is the real part of the music. Annoyance at the small thing has made us close our ears to that which is infinitely greater.
We get out of life all the harmony, all the joy, all the perfection, all the beauty, that we put into it or bring to it. We cannot find the beauty in the outer world until we find it in the inner one. Everything will become beautiful to us if our quest for beauty is thorough, for as we find the inner beauty we shall find its expression in everything without.
We shall feast our eyes in the beauty of the springtime; we shall rejoice in the beauty of summer; be glad in the beauty of autumn; and delight our minds in the beauty of winter. We shall see beauty when the sun is shining, when the birds sing, when the flowers blossom, and all life will sing its wondrous song of beauty. And we shall give forth beauty in our own lives, for these various expressions of it in nature are in man's life—written deep into his own character.
More from Charles Brodie Patterson
- Canadian New Thought author
- Born in Nova Scotia in 1854 and died on June, 22nd 1917