Better Living

Beauty: The Forgotten Part of Wellness

Beauty is balm to our souls and an uplifting force in our world
BY Donna Martelli TIMEFebruary 13, 2022 PRINT

When I was a little girl of about 10 years of age, my dad took me to see a performance by The National Ballet of Canada, a professional company that visited our town. When we arrived at the theater, we showed our tickets to an usher, who directed us to the row where our seats were located.

We climbed over several pairs of legs before collapsing in our seats. An atmosphere of elegant expectation amid the hum of human voices surrounded us. Soon the lights dimmed, the crowd hushed, and the orchestra began to play. The color of the costumes and scenery, the sound of the majestic music, and the art of human expression carried me away into a magical land of perfection. Sheer beauty flooded my soul. That evening of beauty changed the direction of my life.

When we behold beauty, if only in our eyes as the “beholder,” we experience a balm to our souls. I realize that my ballet experience may do nothing for you, but you have your own beauty needs. I believe that’s a fundamental component of our well-being.

“Art and beauty can serve as counterstrike forces against the darkening despair of decay, destruction, and death,” said Randall Flinn, my friend and director of Ad Deum Dance Company, which is located in Houston. “These gifts can serve as signposts of redemptive hope and healing as we wait for the ultimate renewal of all creation.”

Do we not long in the depths of our souls for our world to be redeemed, for all of creation to be restored to its original beauty?

I discovered an exciting insight into beauty by John-Mark L. Miravalle, professor of Systematic and Moral Theology at Mount St. Mary’s Seminary in Maryland. He’s the author, most recently, of “How To Feel Good and How Not To” (Sophia Institute Press, 2020).

In an article for Crisis Magazine, he wrote that beauty has two components: order and surprise.

“Order is the metaphysical part of beauty,” Miravalle wrote. “It is historically expressed by such terms as ‘regularity,’ ‘symmetry,’ ‘perfection,’ ‘integrity,’ and ‘proportion.’ It occurs when a thing is and acts in accord with its own nature.

“Surprise is the psychological part of beauty and is historically expressed by such terms as ‘newness,’ ‘freshness,’ ‘marvelousness,’ and ‘brilliance.’ Surprise happens when the attention of the human mind is arrested by something it does not find obvious.

“Put these two parts together, and you have an aesthetic experience. You are startled by the goodness of reality, astonished by things working the way they’re supposed to, and delighted by the truth.”

In my childhood experience of the ballet, everything about it was regular, symmetrical, orderly, and in accord with its nature. Additionally, the element of surprise took my breath away.

Joy Comes from Beauty

Beholding what’s beautiful to us causes joy to blossom in our hearts. Joy delights us as it gives us new outlooks and perspectives. It encourages us to go onward with the new ideas flooding our brains. We see that thing that we thought was out of reach is indeed attainable. It gives us the courage to step out into new adventures.

This can have a direct effect on our well-being.

Discussing the importance of aesthetics in nursing, L.Kilvensalmi wrote, “The aim of aesthetics is to bring pleasure, joy, comfort, hope, and beauty and, in addition to all this, to strengthen self-experience of a human being.

“Aesthetics can promote health of a human being and improve the quality of life.”

Strength Comes From Beauty

The joy of beauty brings us strength. When we think of the word “strength,” we usually think of physical strength, and indeed, joy brings that to us. But there’s more. Strength isn’t only in the body, it’s also in the mind and in the soul. Strength can be resilience, patience, courage, integrity, and fidelity.

Beauty lightens our hearts even as it emboldens us to persevere. Beauty uplifts us and gives us a reason to strive forward. The joy it brings reminds us of the inherent value of this life.

When our strength comes from beauty and joy rather than ugliness and hatred, we have creative power. That other strength feeds our destructive capacity, but strength inspired by beauty and joy promises that our creative potential will bring delight to others.

And when our hearts are light and inspired by beauty, our mind is calm and our soul is enlivened. Could there be a more healthful state than this?

Formerly a professional dancer with the Harkness Ballet of New York, and faculty member at Butler University, Indianapolis, IN, Donna was Director of Fitness Arts at LivRite Fitness. There, she taught Ballet, Barre, Pilates, Stretch and Conditioning, Personal Training and provided fitness consultations to members. She created Raise the Barre at LivRite, trained, qualified, and managed its instructors, and wrote its training manual. She is the author of “When God Says Drop It” and “Why the Dance,” available wherever books are sold.
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