Why do we find flowers beautiful?
This is the kind of question I’d ask constantly as a kid. I have always found there to be something transcendent and mysterious about beauty, and it’s always piqued my curiosity. ⠀⠀⠀
Have you ever encountered something beautiful, maybe a flower, maybe a canyon or a sunset, that induced a kind of inner stillness and opened you up to a mysterious sense of connectedness? Witnessing beauty impacts us. It wakes us up.
Ancient Greeks saw beauty as a stepping stone to spiritual awakening. Plato taught that we are led to love (and he means love in its deepest and most sacred sense, from what I can tell) by first embracing the “beauties of earth” and then transcending them in favor of subtler and deeper beauties until we reach an appreciation for the kind of beauty that’s in everything.
Researchers at UPenn have identified the appreciation of beauty and excellence as one of 24 universal character strengths that humans across continents and cultures call upon to live the virtues we deem meaningful, to overcome challenges and enhance our wellbeing. Interestingly enough, these researchers placed this strength within the Transcendence category, which describes strengths that connect us to something larger than ourselves and provide us with a sense of meaning.
So when we see beauty in a flower, are we sensing our inherent connection to the rest of the world? Are we sitting right on the edge of awakening? Is that what beauty is about? Maybe we could piece together sophisticated evolutionary theories on why we find flowers beautiful, or why we experience beauty at all, but those theories start to fall apart when we consider the beauty of an inhospitable desert or a nebula deep in space, where we can find no logical evolutionary reason to find beauty there.
I don’t know why we find flowers beautiful. I don’t know why we experience beauty and what that means in the grander scheme of our existence. But, even without knowing these answers, I’ve found that I can still sink into the miraculous beauty of the world just the same.
To read more by Gigi Falk, click here.