As an editor by profession and an avid reader by choice, I frequently find sentences that inspire me, but remembering later exactly which source those sentences came from is tricky.
For example, I read something a week or two ago about beauty. It was just a short sentence, but it got me thinking. So, I apologize for not being able to cite my sources, but I wanted to share a few thoughts about what I read.
The quote I’m rummaging through the recesses of my mind to find said something to this effect: There is a difference between the words “pretty” and “beautiful,” and there is a difference between the items we assign those labels to.
After reading this, I immediately thought of an entry I made in my journal five years ago as my family was preparing to leave Tokyo, Japan, after having lived there for three years.
In this entry, I mentioned looking out my bedroom window down the narrow street, which was pinched on either side by old homes squeezed onto tiny pieces of land and blanketed by a canopy of telephone wires. This claustrophobia-inducing concrete scene is definitely not something I’d call pretty. But as I tried to capture it in my mind on our final day in Japan, I decided there was something beautiful about it.
You could look beyond the asphalt and attribute that beauty to the neatly pruned bushes and absolutely spotless sidewalks, but it was something more that inspired me to label it “beautiful.”
So here’s a thought: Pretty things have an obvious appeal. We can spot a dress, a tropical sunset or a piece of decor and easily say, “That’s pretty.” But true beauty is initially concealed. To me, beauty connotes an appeal that the observer has to work to discover. But once it’s found, it’s eternal.
Perhaps this applies to people, too. Pick up any fashion or fitness magazine, and you’ll find the word “pretty” (among others that are harmful to your self-esteem) popping into your mind every five seconds as you are bombarded with images of air-brushed perfection.
If, however, you close the magazine and think about the most beautiful people you know, the images are likely very different.
You probably don’t think of the skinniest girl at work or the woman you saw at the salon last week. If you’re like me, you think of people whose humility, determination, poise and confidence shine from within. And I think it’s interesting how that confidence starts to show up in the gentle wrinkles at the corner of their eyes or in the exuberance of their hand gestures.
Once you discover it, beauty is undeniable.
With this in mind, I gave myself a challenge recently to spend more time looking for beautiful things — and I found them. I found beauty in an overcast, smoggy sky. I found it in the barren tree branches lining a city street. I found it in a little girl’s unkempt hair twisting in the wind as she ran along a street in my neighborhood.
And I found it in the photo above. Yes, in that frozen drop of water on a bush outside my house I saw beauty.
It turns out the world is bursting at the seams with beauty. It just takes a bit of time and an open mind to see it.