Thankful for Truth and Beauty (Thanksgiving 2017)

Here’s my Thanksgiving to the world of my readers.

As a physician and philosopher, I have long-studied the relationship between truth and beauty. Start with:

  1. John Keats: “Beauty is truth and truth is beauty. That is all ye know and all ye need to know.”
  2. Alfred North Whitehead: “Beauty is a wider and more fundamental notion than truth. Apart from beauty, truth is neither good nor bad,” and, “There are no whole truths, only half truths.”

Now we move on to just a few of so many important teachers:

  1. Leo Tolstoy: “The hero of my talk, whom I love with all the power of my soul, whom I have tried to portray in all his beauty, who has been, is, and will always be beautiful, is Truth”
  2. Krishnamurti: “Religion is not organized belief; religion is the search for truth (I would add beauty), which is of no country, which is of no organized belief, which does not lie in any temple, church or mosque. Without the search for truth (I would again add, “and beauty”) no society can long exist.”
  3. Tom Jay (sculptor – quote from Heron Dance Issue #45 (2005)): “I think the `seeker’s path’ is about arriving at a place, a bottom, where will and ego aren’t big enough to serve the thing that you are after, which is the truth. So you have to give up trying to control things. You attend to them. The difference is major. The path is about a larger, more mysterious context, which makes things scarier and more confusing, but it also makes beauty possible. Truth, like beauty, is not ultimately in your power, it is larger.”
  4. Thomas Moore: “Hard work and beauty are inseparable, and maybe therein lies the first lesson from classical literature about the place of grace in ordinary life. All our skillful efforts, even the sweatiest and most physical, should never be separated from beauty and fantasy.” “Today we separate the beautiful from the meaningful, graciousness from practicality. That rift leaves us with art that is marginalized and appears optional, if not irrelevant, and with hard work and productivity that, with their emphasis on functionality, deprive us of our souls.” I would shorten and paraphrase: Hard work and beauty are inseparable, and maybe therein lies the first lesson from classical literature about the place of grace in ordinary life. The rift that occurs between beautiful and meaningful, and between graciousness and practicality, deprives us of our soul.

Fascinated by the word concepts and feeling concepts, and the interweaving of both truth and beauty, I collected all the information I could find, never satisfied as I endlessly pondered the relationship between truth and beauty. One spring, while taking a course in Western philosophy and sitting by myself on a California beach, I had an epiphany that I could only accomplish my goal through imagery. I put pencil to paper and immediately wrote the following poem – something that would have been impossible without my prior struggle.

Truth & Beauty

Truth gives us power, while beauty gives us pause.

Beauty, the bright eye of the tiger; truth, its fangs and claws.

Truth gives us the pathway, beauty the flowers.

One, pain pounding walk; the other, pleasure for hours.

Truth grips our bodies. Beauty releases our soul.

One makes us valid; the other makes us whole.

Push truth with all your might; then beauty squeezes into sight.

Try the other way around. Push beauty far and truth is found.

I thank All Nature that surrounds us, we’ve received such a sign.

The hard straight lines of truth – softened by beauty, sublime.

 

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