Beauty is truth, truth beauty, that is all Ye know on earth, and all ye need to know. – John Keats
But how do we come to the realization that truth and beauty are two sides of the same coin? How do we internalize that reality so that it is part of our worldview and guides us in our behavior? How do we convince a perfectly happy pig that life in a filthy sty is the best that he can hope for? Well, let’s start by approaching the pig with a sharp stick—let’s get his attention. Oink! Oink! Yes I’m speaking to you. Don’t become angry, this essay is all in good fun and yes, absolutely true notwithstanding the “pointed” metaphor.
There is irony, of course in the metaphor of “poking a pig” in hopes that it raises its standards as to what is possible in transforming its experience of life. What if the pig could be “shocked” into the realization that it could change its worldview, its identity and its behavior as well? What does talk of a paradigm shift have to do with truth and beauty you might ask?
Whereas we turn to our intellect to lead the search for truth, we must rely on our heart to experience beauty. And whereas our discovery of truth is best expressed in prose, our experience of beauty is best left to the poets. “Beauty is a dialogue between perceiver and perceived. Beauty is the world’s answer to the audacity of a flower. It is the way a bee spills across the lip of a yawning buttercup; it is the care with which a satin bowerbird selects a hibiscus bloom; it is the impulse to recreate water lilies with oil and canvas; it is the need to place roses on a grave.” (p. 48)
Plants and animals are sentient and create their own reality. Plants and animals, yes including homo sapiens sapiens, have the creative power to change their physical form and in the case of our species, our beliefs, attitudes and values. Such a shift in worldview would result in a profound change in identity and a resultant change in fundamental behavior patterns. No sty, no piggish behavior! You are skeptical? Of course but read on.
“There are really two environments governing the evolution of sentient creatures: an external one, which they inhabit, and an internal one, which they construct. To solve the enigma of beauty, to fully understand evolution, we must uncover the hidden links between those two worlds.” (p. 26)
“Animals are agents in their own evolution. Birds are beautiful because they are beautiful to themselves.” (p. 30) “A feather, then, cannot be labeled the sole product of either natural or sexual selection. A feather, with its reciprocal structure, embodies the confluence of two powerful and equally important evolutionary forces: utility and beauty.” (p. 33)
Why don’t we better understand the flora and fauna that we are immersed in? “[Evolution] is an intricate clockwork of physics, biology and perception in which every moving part influences another in both subtle and profound ways. Its gears are so innumerable and dynamic—so susceptible to serendipity and mishap—that even a single outcome of its ceaseless ticking can confound science for centuries.” (p. 33)
Some provocative truths we are probably reluctant to accept but failure to do so has resulted in just that, our failure. What failure? The catastrophic failure to create a sustainable human community. That’s our first “poke.” We poke your complacency, your ability to blithely ignore reality itself!
Insight # 79: Our brains merely structure our thought processes, which represent limited aspects of a more universal mind. – Deepak Chopra
- Implicate Order, essay found in The ABCs of Simple Reality, Vol I (2018), by Roy Charles Henry, pages 265-270.
- Jabr. Ferris. “Beauty and the Beast.” The New York Times Magazine. January 13, 2019, pages 26, 30, 33 and 48.