Monolithic concrete urban tower blocks. Forest at sunrise. A dog wagging his tail and smiling. A shabby leather armchair Winston Churchill sat in and smoked a cigar.
Which of these might you consider beautiful? Do you ever wonder why you consider something beautiful?
I’d venture that Venice is definitely beautiful. When I visited during a watery Autumn, saturated myself in magnificent art and walked across the Bridge of Sighs where we were told prisoners sighed at their last view of Venice through its windows, I was instantly overcome with this city’s man-made beauty.
I suppose I was programmed to find it beautiful and I did. It was awe-inspiring, jaw-dropping. And yet, its polar opposite – the all-natural, barely a man-made footprint on it, Red Centre of Australia, inspired in me a similar state of appreciation of beauty from an entirely different angle. And taught me something.
Standing in the middle of monotonous red sand stretching to nowhere and a hunk of bitty hill, much-photographed Uluru, (or as colonists referred to it, Ayers Rock) I thought, ‘huh? there’s nothing here!’.
And then someone pointed out a lizard. A thorny devil. One of the most magnificent creatures I’ve ever seen! Suddenly, I had a whole new pair of viewing lenses on. I was at one with the breathtaking vastness, the high sky so blue against the red sand.
In this deeply spiritual and reverential place, if you lower your hyped-up, over-stimulated vision-o-meter to zero and then look around, you are rewarded with a whole other kind of expanded perspective.
The shape of a rock. The millions of shades of red that happen in nature. How pretty ripples in sand can be, how calming their rhythm. The stark joy of a single plant, the only plant you can see.
When I think about the Red Centre and contrast it with Venice I find a beautifully simple analogy for changing my perspective on beauty to see the wonder in the smallest, fewest things.
What we perceive as beautiful is so clearly dependent on our individual Selves, our experiences, the mind behind our own eyes. The beauty of that is that it is not fixed but ever-changing so we’re always free to see the beauty in everything.