The sense of the beautiful

I enjoyed the stunning portraiture of Annie Leibovitz at a show in San Francisco, November 2003

I enjoyed the stunning portraiture of Annie Leibovitz in San Francisco, November 2003

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul.” — Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

In the centuries since Goethe penned this sound advice, it has become infinitely easier to do the things he suggests.  In fact, one can do all of them in a short session at the computer.  The problem we face today is sorting through all the wholesome and unwholesome distractions that threaten to derail our attention to the beautiful.  Besides which, though the computer is definitely the most convenient way to enjoy great works, it can never replace the joy of physically strolling through a gallery, sitting in the audience at an orchestra or theater performance, or relaxing with a book of poetry in bed or in an outdoor setting.

In an age where people are given to neglecting the health of the body, it’s not surprising that nourishment of the mind and soul also languish.  Just as our stomach sends us unmistakable messages that tell us when it’s time to eat, so the agitation and conflict we often feel tell us that we need to take time to feed our minds and our souls.  I hope you will make time, today and every day, to heed your sense of the beautiful calling you to a higher awareness.


  1. Deborah

    Excellent advice. Just as with the physical body where “you are what you eat”, the mind and soul and spirit are the same and benefit from feeding them with positive, beautiful, and uplifting things.

    • Thanks Deborah! Isn’t it interesting that we tend to neglect the spirit even more than the body? I’m encouraged that there are lots of bloggers out there with positive and uplifting messages, freely available to anyone with access to a computer. I appreciate your visits here, and your comments!

  2. Mike Bertoglio

    Have not read much poetry in a while. I used to read Gary Snyder’s stuff many years ago “Earth House Hold.” Pat Conroy keeps poetry on his writing desk and says, “Poetry lights the pilot light where language hides.” His favorite is James Dickey.Any poetry books you might recommend?

    • Hi Mike, I’m not familiar with Gary Snyder; I’ll have to look him up. Among contemporary poets, I like Mary Oliver, Ted Kooser, Naomi Shihab Nye, Marge Piercy and Sharon Olds, to name just a few. Since I like formal structure, I also enjoy many of the well known poets of past generations. Robert Frost, Emily Dickinson and “golden oldies” such as Tennyson, Shelley and Kipling are hard to beat,in my opinion. Since I still know very little of their complete works, there is much still undiscovered there.

      My favorite poem, “The Apologist’s Evening Prayer,” is by C. S. Lewis, who is much better known for his prose. That poem is the second one by Lewis at the link above; the first one is pretty good too, I think.

      I absolutely love Garrison Keillor’s 5-minute radio program “The Writer’s Almanac” which can be heard once or twice daily on most public radio stations, or (last time I checked) streamed or downloaded in podcasts. He chooses some very interesting selections, and I like the biographical information he starts with each day.

  3. I will check out “The Writer’s Almanac” – sounds good. And good advice from you, also.:)

    • Thanks, I love WA – it used to come on exactly at the time I had to get up (6:00 a.m.) and it was a great way to start the day! Hope you like it.

  4. Sheila

    Julia, I hope that Jeff has crossed that 36 hour mark again, after the emergency surgery, and that now there is steady improvement. Thank you for your email and your continued replys. I am very thankful that Jeff has such an excellent team of doctors. I hope that you have more comfortable sleeping arrangements. I really like Garrison Keillor’s radio program that you shared. My prayers continue to be often, as I think of you many times throughout my day! Sheila

    • Thanks so much, Sheila — I’m so grateful for your prayers and friendship! I do think that Jeff seems to be on the mend, thank the Lord!

      • Sheila

        I did show the email (photo) to Bill. His comment was simply, “Impressive!” Rest well….

        • Thanks Sheila — I suppose we should give Bill the disclaimer that the photo was taken before the 2nd (emergency) surgery – but hey, I’m still impressed! Thanks for being with us through this.

  5. merry

    Julia, good advice. if we don’t take care of our selves, no one else will.
    You, Jeff and family is in my prayers during his surgery. Blessings,

    • Thanks so much! I honestly believe that the prayers are making the difference here. I am so grateful for all the kind words, good wishes and prayers being given so generously right now. It has helped us so much.

  6. Boy, we’ve been hitting on the same cylinders this week. My post today was “Finding God in Art: In the Words of Vincent Van Gogh”.

    Your post has confirmed in me my decision to visit the Indianapolis Art Museum soon – very soon. I’m doing research on Van Gogh and I’m not sure I’ve ever even seen a full-size print of his hanging on a wall.

    • I know you will enjoy your time at the art museum. If you have not been to the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, be sure to put that on your list of places to see someday. I am deeply touched by many of Van Gogh’s observations, and I cannot imagine how cruel the world must have been to anyone suffering from mental illness in past centuries. I will be sure to read your post.
      Be sure to watch the video I have embedded at the end of this post and see the quote at the top of my Pinterest page
      Also, if you ever have occasion to read books for young people, Vincent has a heartwarming appearance at the end of this book which I really like.

  7. I know I will always find plenty of wisdom and inspiration here, so thanks for your inspirations Julia. I have the luxury of time many people my age crave. I try to be very respectful of that and not to waste that privilege. Sometimes, I do find myself daydreaming a bit, but that can be productive too.

    • I agree, daydreaming can be quite productive, especially for creative types. It’s like a form of practice as well as a respite time for the brain. I’m so glad you visit and enjoy my blog! The other day I was trying to remember how you found me, but couldn’t remember. I know it was in the very early days I was blogging, though. Hard to believe I’ve been blogging for more than 7 months now.

      • mmmm, that’s funny, I don’t recall either. Probably followed you back from a thread somewhere when I thought your comment was interesting 😀 I do that sometimes, read the odd comment and think “Hey! ya!” and next thing you know, I’ve found another friend, it’s only been 7 months? Heck, seems longer. That’s awesome!

        • In some ways it seems forever, and in some ways it seems only a few weeks. Jeff’s first cancer diagnosis was in September of last year (appendix cancer, easily removed and thought to be resolved until the liver tumors didn’t go away) and life since then has been CRAZY, with Matt hospitalized for cardiac ablation in October, and Jeff’s second (apparently unrelated) cancer diagnosis in November. My world felt as if it was crashing in on me and this blog was an impulsive grab at having a distraction that would FORCE me to turn my thoughts in a sunny direction. I had no idea where it would lead. Realizing I’ve now written 200+ daily posts sort of amazes me, though. And I love, love, love discovering people in the blogosphere, where it feels so much more personal and direct. Also good for creative inspiration when I read blogs like yours!


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