Why Beauty is Transcendent

First, I’m no Immanuel Kant and this is not a treatise on aesthetics.

This is a personal reflection. I was reflecting on this topic lately, one that is close to my heart as someone who appreciates it deeply through art, music, film and cultural production. I like to surround myself with all things beautiful- environment, people, products, ways of living.

But I must define what beauty is for me in order to communicate why I am drawn to it.

Beauty for me is creation, the outcome of an often stressful, frustrating process of creating something out of nothing. When I focus on a piece of art in a museum, I reflect on what it must’ve taken the artist– in terms of time, energy, worldview and courage — to produce something that is to be admired by us spectators. Bringing about something new, whether art, product or life, is beautiful for me because they display creation, even if the process is not easily evident in the completed form. It represents effort and time, and truly beautifully crafted products are high quality because it has a combination of both. Witnessing the act of creating, say in a crafts workshop or an artist studio, is even more beautiful. I am further moved when I meet an artist immersed in his or her craft through doing or speaking.

Beauty is also a kind of radiance that emanates from the object — whether it be a bubbly personality of a friend or the grandeur of a scenic view.

We are drawn to beauty, not always because of its superficial, transient, or monetary value, but because of its transcendental power that connects us to the higher expression of ourselves: us, mere mortals, who have the opportunity to witness and the ability to appreciate that which is beautiful.

Recently, I’ve been introduced to another facet of the power of beauty in our lives. I came across the book, “The Evidential Power of Beauty” by Thomas Dubay, through a podcast by young Catholic priests in Colorado discussing beauty as a pilgrimage, or journey. Even if I knew that beauty can be a verb, as in my earlier explanation of beauty being the process and product of creation, it struck me that beauty can be also be described as a journey. In this case, it is the journey to God, the inflection point from the seemingly opposing fields of study toward the same destination: the divine.

“The acute experience of great beauty readily evokes a nameless yearning for something more than earth can offer. Elegant splendor reawakens our spirit’s aching need for the infinite, a hunger for more than matter can provide.”

To continue appreciating beauty, we must pay more attention to areas that lift our spirits, calm us down, and acknowledge that transcendence imparts us a kind of power: to inspire us to seek bigger dreams toward which we hone our abilities, and to believe in something greater than ourselves.

Doing these might just manifest more beauty in our lives.