Musing on the Beauty of Words

My Favorite Quotes on Beauty:

As much as I think about the concept of beauty, both in the concrete and the abstract, I sometimes find myself taking pleasure in exploring viewpoints on beauty from a wide variety of sources. While I am not an expert on the Internet, I have discovered that it is a rich source of material on the subject of beauty — if you know where to look.

Famous quotations by authors, historians and even celebrities can hold a unique perspective on the power and grace of beauty. I want to share my favorites with you today:

How much more doth beauty beauteous seem by that sweet ornament which truth doth give!”

~ William Shakespeare (1564 – 1616), Sonnet LIV

Now, I am not a Shakespearean scholar, but this line from his 54th Sonnet is not difficult to interpret. What the Bard is trying to convey is that truth and beauty have a very close and intimate relationship. Honesty is as much a virtue as beauty, and clinging to the truth can make something that is already beautiful even more beautiful. The key idea is that the virtue of truth is beautiful on its own. I love that thought, because it is a part of my entire philosophy on beauty, because I truly believe that inner beauty — like honesty — is an intrinsic part of aesthetic beauty. If you have one, you’ll definitely have the other.

“You can only perceive real beauty in a person as they get older.”

~ Anouk Aimee, O Magazine, October 2003

To understand this quote, you must understand who spoke it. Anouk Aimee is a French film actress who was to the French cinema what Elizabeth Taylor and Audrey Hepburn were to the American cinema. She is a classic beauty who has appeared in 70 films since 1947, when she began her film career at age 14. In 1958, she portrayed the tragic artist Jeanne Hébuterne in the film Les Amants de Montparnasse. She appeared in La Dolce Vita, and Jacques Demy’s Lola. She has won the Golden Globe Award, been nominated for an Academy Award and has been a symbol of grace and glamour for decades.

When she was 71, Aimee gave an interview to Oprah Winfrey’s O Magazine, where she discussed her feelings on beauty. In this quote, she exquisitely described one of the concepts I have struggled to articulate myself. Many women look in the mirror as they get older, and they feel that because their skin may not look the same as it did when they were 20 that they have somehow lost their beauty. On the contrary, all our experience, our loves, our defeats and our triumphs are reflected in that mirror, and our beauty can resonate from a place inside ourselves if we allow it to show. Our age is not our weakness. It is our strength, because of what we have survived and triumphed over to get here.

“Think of all the beauty still left around you and be happy.”

~ Anne Frank (1929 – 1945), Diary of a Young Girl, 1952

This one simply makes me cry. No one needs to be reminded of the suffering of Anne Frank, who hid with her family from the Nazis during World War II. She was but a teenager when she wrote this in her diary of that period in her life, and the sheer wisdom and grace of the sentiment never fails to overwhelm me. Even with the indignities that she suffered, the freedom she sacrificed and the sadness all around her, this girl could still see beauty in the world around her.

That accomplishment should strike a chord in each of us. When we are at our worst, we would do well to remember dear Anne’s words, because they will never fail to put our travails into perspective.

“Beauty is the purgation of superfluities.”

~ Michelangelo Buonarroti (1475 – 1564)

Who better to end with than a man who has captured more beauty with his paintbrush and sculpting knife than many of us will ever experience in a lifetime than Michelangelo, the artist of the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel in Rome. As an artist, few in history have ever been able to match his absolute mastery of human anatomy in a way that has expressed beauty as he did. Yet, with all his attention to detail, even he realized the truth — that pure beauty exists only when we purge the superficial and focus on what is beneath — our inner beauty.

As I have said many times before, and I will again, the secret to being beautiful is to let it shine from the inside out. All we need to do is find our inner beauty, and the rest is easy.

Yours in Beauty,




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