“The essence of all beautiful art, all great art, is gratitude.”–Friedrich Nietzsche
The Nietzsche quote is striking simply because he wrote it. This highly intelligent and very intellectual philosopher, poet, composer, and philologist lived a dark life. He observed his personal mental and physical decline. He suffered a condition that some contemporary experts believe was frontotemporal dementia. He eventually suffered a psychotic breakdown at the age of 44 in 1889. Nietzsche passed away the following August in a mental asylum.
With these biographical facts in mind, it would be fascinating to go back in time in order to interview Nietzsche in the years prior to 1889. I’d be interested in how he synthesized his views on beauty. His opinions regarding morality, philosophy, and objective truth were ground-breaking for his time. I’m guessing that when Nietzsche observed art and other forms of beauty, he actually felt deeply thankful.
In our world of pain and suffering, Nietzsche was not the only person to feel profoundly terrible. Every being has suffered to some degree. Many everyday people analyze our own lives and seek out ways to make life more beautiful for ourselves and others. Beauty is half of a dichotomy that is shared by ugliness. We subjectively judge beauty by how much ugliness it counteracts. If there was no such concept of ugliness, would we have a concept of beauty? I’ll leave that for the Nietzschean scholars to answer.
The everyday truth of the matter is that we don’t have to be philosophers or theologians or experts to appreciate and feel grateful for a beautiful life experience. Our world is filled with people who have struggled, known loss, were defeated, and suffered. They have climbed their way out of those depths and became beautiful people. They understand that such beauty is not a guarantee, but is the result of conscious effort.
Today is the unofficial holiday called “Make Life Beautiful Day”. While this is a thoughtful cultural “red letter” day, it doesn’t need to be a superficial act of touching base. Today is a perfect opportunity for us to pause for awhile and observe our surroundings and see the beauty that surrounds us in surprising ways.
I’ll end today’s little article with my personal opinion about living a beautiful life. To contemplate beauty in its various incarnations is one of the most intense, elevating, and pure pleasures a person can enjoy. To enable and act to help others discover beauty within and without, is a compassionate way to make life beautiful.