What is Beauty?

By | November 28, 2022

[November 28, 2022]  There is nothing more valuable than beauty.  We all know this to be true, but most of us cannot explain it, nor can we fully understand why that is the case.  To articulate an explanation of beauty stretches our minds.  What is beauty, and why is it so valuable?  Why is beauty confusing?  Moreover, why is beauty so intimidating?

Fyodor Dostoevsky wrote in his book, The Idiot (1868-69), “Beauty will save the world.”  To emphasize the importance of that point, the famous Alexandre Solzhenitsyn quotes Dostoevsky in his 1970 Nobel Prize acceptance speech.  What they meant, I believe, is that while many things are of the highest importance to us such as truth, love, justice, and the classical virtues, beauty is, perhaps, the foremost among them.  I think Dostoevsky also meant that beauty is something you cannot walk past without noticing, and beauty can never be taken for granted.  You cannot get used to seeing it.

Furthermore, beauty is confusing because it is not clear what it is.  Beauty is difficult to define.  And beauty is also terrifying.  Yet, beauty cannot be reduced to clarity and simplicity because when beauty is at its best, it is unpredictable, has fire in it, and it transcends our ordered world.  We “see” beauty with more than our eyes, which is why beauty is both compelling and terrifying simultaneously.

A great example of beauty being immensely attractive and terrifying at the same time is in the symbology of Christian art from many centuries ago.  Several represent the early stories from the Bible, Adam and Eve and their encounter with God.

When God kicks Adam and Eve out of the Garden of Eden, He then puts Cherubim with flaming swords at the gate to stop humans from re-entering paradise.  Cherubim are the supporting attendants of God.  This idea is an ancient one that is difficult to fit into a modern conceptual framework because they have both an angelic and demonic aspect.  The Cherubim have flaming swords; a sword symbolizes judgment or cutting away, and the flame is to burn away.  Why?  If you want to get into paradise, it carves and burns away everything about you that isn’t perfect.  To enter the gates of Heaven means you not only have to face death but also its hellish judgment.  This religious art has this all and more.

The beauty of this Christian art is that it reaches into the back of our minds at levels we cannot even comprehend and it grips you.  That’s why people go to museums and gaze upon this art, the art they do not consciously understand, and they will travel long distances and endure onerous restrictions to see them.  The most valuable things in this world are classic art from the ancient world.  Why are these so expensive, and why do we build large buildings to house these images?  And it matters not if you are religious or secular; you still want to see this art.  They make the trip to experience the awe of such works.

Beauty challenges you.  Beauty says that we can be more than we are.  Beauty is a pointer to the unknowing good.  Beauty means judgment, and that judgment of you is very harsh.  And yet when we see beauty, it transcends our understanding of life, but it also means our current place is not good enough.  Beauty tells us we can do better but only by adopting the most challenging and demanding standards of being.

Also interesting is many men fear women, especially very beautiful women.  And why is that?  First, women make men self-conscious.  When men are rejected by women (women chose men), that rejection is terrifying because it means their life is not good enough and possibly can never be good enough.  The rejection is to the proportion of the man’s ability to meet the standards of beauty.

Those who do not see beauty, or who miss the profound ideas of what beauty informs us, will attempt to tear us down because they have met the judgment and they know they are not worthy.  If you can enjoy and “see” beauty, you know that you have a better ability to operate in the world and are a force for good instead of harm because you’ll have learned some humility by trying to understand beauty.  Beauty opens your eyes toward the good.

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  1. “55 Rules for a Good Life,” on Amazon (link here).
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Author: Douglas R. Satterfield

Hello. I provide one article every day. My writings are influenced by great thinkers such as Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jung, Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, Jean Piaget, Erich Neumann, and Jordan Peterson, whose insight and brilliance have gotten millions worldwide to think about improving ourselves. Thank you for reading my blog.

35 thoughts on “What is Beauty?

  1. Teaser Joe

    One of the best, most informative articles I ever read.

    Reply
  2. Beaver College

    Sir, a walloping straight blog post. Made me think a lot reading it. Keep this great site going. You are helping more than you can know. ❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  3. Armywife

    Wow! Perhaps, General Satterfield has perfected the beauty of expression in his writing.

    Reply
  4. Lynn Pitts

    Yes, beauty can be terrifying, esp. if you cannot meet the standards it demands. That is a harsh message and one we need to learn fully and how we can at least strive to improve upon ourselves in the face of beauty.

    Reply
  5. Yusaf from Texas

    Sophia Loren. I guess that if Gen. Satterfield had to pick a thumbnail for his article that she would be picked. Obviously one of the most beautiful women in the world.

    Reply
    1. Army Vet

      Yes, and as it should be. Beauty can be, according to Gen. S., very frightening becuase it has standards that are difficult to achieve. Men are chosen by women and rejected by them too. Scary.

      Reply
  6. Plain Man

    Truly interesting and thought provoking. ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️

    Reply
  7. Willie Strumburger

    Gen. Satterfield, you sure did decide to take on a seriously huge topic, one that is debated endlessly in the press and is at the top of the culture wars. What next Gen. S? What is love? Now that would be a great one to read.

    Reply
    1. Georgie B.

      Love Your Enemies: What it Really Means
      https://www.theleadermaker.com/love-your-enemies-what-it-really-means/
      Hey, Willie, I do believe that Gen. Satterfield has taken a shot at that topic already. Maybe he needs to update his thinking on ‘love’.
      And, now that Christmas is approaching, it is time to get “55 Rules for a Good Life” the book that Gen. Satterfield just published. Get your copy now and give it as a gift. 😊

      Reply
  8. corralesdon

    So what is beauty? Choice is beauty. Laughter and happiness and self-acceptance is beauty. Being able to look back on your life and knowing that you did things for the sake of your own peace of mind and not for any one else’s misguided judgement. Knowing that you are worth the world and every positive thing it offers. That is beauty.

    Reply
    1. ant man

      Hmmmm, kind of getting there, I think corralesdon (from a free Texas). I too have my own preferences for beauty but what Gen. Satterfield is saying something different, whether it is personal pref or not. He is saying that beauty transcends what the cultural aspects of beauty is. I think he means that there is something much more fundamental about beauty that goes far deeper than our shallow cultural whims take us. Maybe it’s biological to a large degree and maybe all biological while culture only works at the margins. Oh, just my thoughts.

      Reply
      1. Edward G.

        Good point ant man. Your comment is one of the reasons that I read this leadership forum provided by Gen. Satterfield. I gain a lot of ways o thinking and I’m happy there is no ideological restrictions here.

        Reply
        1. Dead Pool Guy

          Same for me Edward G. Now, what will gen. S. write about tomorrow that is related to beauty. That is what he often does when he nails a hard topic.

          Reply
        2. Kraus Icon

          …😎 let’s keep the ball rolling and support Gen satterfield …

          Reply
    2. Stacey Borden

      Interesting comment corralesdon. thanks, another point to consider.

      Reply
      1. corralesdon

        Thank you guys for commenting on my thinking. That is how I get better. For others to read and take apart what I say and give feedback. That is how we all get better and smarter.

        Reply
  9. Emma Archambeau

    Artists have sought to discover new forms of beauty through differing styles. “Pretty” is in the eye of the beholder. Where one person may love the aesthetic of pointillism, another could only see the purpose of discussion to be for the Romantic era.

    Reply
  10. Dennis Mathes

    This article is going to generate some great discussion. What is love? What is beauty? What is a human? Those are questions people have been searching for now since the beginning of humankind and will continue forever. But, I think that Gen. Satterfield has given us a pretty darn good start to get an answer. Oh, maybe the search for the answer is the point, not the answer itself. 👍

    Reply
  11. Fred Weber

    — and I thought this was a normal blog on leadership. Imagine what I’m now getting.

    Reply
    1. Harry Man

      A lot more that is what you are getting. I’m happy to say that this blog by general Satterfield has stretched my mind in a number of ways. It has convinced me that I can be better than I ever thought I could be but that requires sometimes being terrified at what awaits.

      Reply
  12. Seventy Six Wife

    Wonderful article on BEAUTY. Wow, hard to say more until I can wrap my brain around this. I can’t wait for tomorrow’s article.

    Reply
  13. Max Foster

    Gen. Satterfield, your article was NOT what I was expecting with the title “What is Beauty?” But the answer is classic General Satterfield. I’m a bit overwhelmed and yes, i will have to re-read it, think a bit, and twirl it around in my mind for a while before I can understand it all. You are the new philosopher of people. And, just think I started reading your book “55 Rules for a Good Life” and I can see it all coming together for me (and others) but it is going to take some time. well done, keep up the work you are doing here on your leadership blog.

    Reply
    1. Army Captain

      Max, you are right and Gen. Satterfield has a really different perspective esp. now on ‘beauty.’ Let’s see how tha tplays out over time.

      Reply
      1. Bryan Z. Lee

        Yeah, but I will have to do some hard thinking about what was written here, for example …
        ” Yet, beauty cannot be reduced to clarity and simplicity because when beauty is at its best, it is unpredictable, has fire in it, and it transcends our ordered world.” Ha, I’m just a small brain now trying to figure this out.

        Reply
    2. Fred Weber

      Keep reading “55 Rules for a Good Life” and you will begin – maybe slowly – but you will begin to understand.

      Reply
      1. Nick Lighthouse

        Got my copy and will read it again and again. Everytime I read a chapter, I get something new from it. So, my advice is to get your copy of “55 rules for a good life” and get it now. You will not be disappointed. I will also point out that Gen. Satterfield writes in an easy, almost conversation style. I like that style because it makes it much easier for me to follow.

        Reply
          1. JT Patterson

            Pow, got it nailed LM. My thoughts exactly. ❤❤❤❤❤

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