If Ideas Had Shapes

A quoteblog ranging from philosophers in bathrobes to galaxy-rises

Tag: beauty

John Milton – Paradise Lost (1674)

Why sleepst thou Eve? now is the pleasant time
The cool, the silent, save where silence yields
To the night-warbling Bird, that now awake
Tunes sweetest his love-labor’d song; now reignes
Full Orb’d the Moon, and with more pleasing light
Shadowie sets off the face of things; in vain,
If none regard;…


Salman Rushdie – The Satanic Verses (1988)

At night she took to walking out into the pampa and lying on her back to look at the galaxy above, and sometimes, under the influence of that bright flow of beauty, she would begin to tremble all over, to shudder with a deep delight, and to hum an unknown tune, and this star-music was as close as she came to joy.

Alan Lightman – Mr. g (2012)

“And please tell me, how do you know whether a particular deed benefits another being? And please tell me the definition of ‘beauty.’”

“You understand these things as well as I.”

“Yes,” said Belhor. “But I understand them only because I understand their opposites. I understand evil. I understand ugliness. I maintain that good can be defined only in its contrast to evil, beauty only in its contrast to ugliness. Qualities such as these must exist in pairs. Good comes with evil. Beauty comes with ugliness, and so on. There are no absolutes in the universe, no unitary qualities. All qualities are bound to their opposites.”

Alan Lightman – Mr. g (2012)

They were aware of themselves, yes. They were thinking, yes. But they were more than thinking. They were feeling. They were feeling the connection of themselves to the galaxies and stars. They were grasping the beauty and depth of their existence and then expressing that experience in musical harmonies and rhythms. And in paintings. In metaphors, and words. In dance. In symbiotic transference. They imagined the cosmos beyond their own bodies. They imagined.

Alan Lightman – Mr. g (2012)

Wouldn’t the beauty have more meaning with other minds to admire it? Wouldn’t it be transformed by other minds? I’m not talking about a passive admiration of beauty, but a participation in that beauty, in which everyone is enlarged. …life-forms are made of the same atoms as everything else in the universe. The beauty you speak of – the stars and the oceans and so forth – is part of their beauty, those living things. And so much enhanced by their participation, by their absorption of that beauty and then the responsive outflowing of their own beauty. It is a spiritual thing, don’t you see?

Alan Lightman – Mr. g (2012)

The slow shift of the light through each day caused shadows to drift, shorten and lengthen, producing constantly changing silhouettes. The summits of mountains, which might be pink in the mornings, turned violet and amaranth in late afternoon. At certain times of the day a landscape might appear craggy and hard, and at other times the same landscape could seem delicate and soft, like evanescent veils in the Void. These phenomena could not be quantified, like temperatures and densities. Instead, they heightened one’s sensations. They seeped into one’s insides. Like music, they created a feeling that was not there before.

Alan Lightman – Mr. g (2012)

The liquid oceans were particularly beautiful. Jostled by winds, their surfaces rippled with liquid waves. These glided across the surfaces, crest to trough to crest, glittering with starlight and reflecting the colored atmospheres above. Some liquid waves were so delicate and slight that they dissipated after traveling a short distance, barely leaving a memory of their presence. Others, fierce and rough, rose up to great heights and pushed a quarter way round the whole planet. I believe that the ocean waves were music in material form.

Ansel Adams – The Camera (1980)

An electronic and optical miracle creates nothing on its own! Whatever beauty and excitement [the camera] can represent exist in your mind and spirit to begin with.

Leo Tolstoy – What Is Art? (1896)

All attempts to define absolute beauty in itself – whether as an imitation of nature, or as suitability to its object, or as a correspondence of parts, or as symmetry, or as harmony, or as unity in variety, etc. either define nothing at all, or define only some traits of some artistic productions, and are far from including everything that everybody has always held, and still holds, to be art.

There is no objective definition of beauty.

Ansel Adams – Examples (1983)

There is often a mournful quality about fall in Yosemite: the Merced River is very low, and the waterfalls are gone for the year. Autumn color is never brilliant there, but the dark gold and russets of the oaks and willows have a particular quiet beauty.