The philosopher Plotinus articulated that there is a certain magnitude, or degree, of parts to each other, and the whole, with the addition of colour that it generates beauty — the object of sight and exquisiteness of everything that exists. Although his sublime observation isn’t simple, it exemplifies the idea of beauty as being not just beautiful, but also augmenting the appellation of beauty of the whole, and not just the parts. Yet, it needs to be construed that everything that is dainty need not always refer to as being fair. To cull a common paradigm — everything pleasant can never emerge from the distorted, or malformed. Or, just think of another example — the most beautiful colours and the dazzling light of the sun. They are simple and also obvious, yet they do not acquire their beauty exclusively from the sun alone — they attain it from our mind’s eye, including our natural, mindful urge to celebrate colours in all their resplendent hues and forms.

This brings us to one obvious question. Does all that glisters, not just glitters, is as beautiful as gold? Or, is the sparkling of night and the magnificent sight of stars a paean to beauty — of the vast expanse and allure of the cosmos? Yes, certainly — not just because they are of great value and also epic, respectively. On the contrary, beauty could be effortlessly applied to the simplest pleasures of life — be it a humble musical note on the flute, or violin, or a vocal rendition. Agreed that such simple musical sounds would be distant from beauty — when we hear them unaccompanied in a tenor. But, when it is part of a song, it becomes magically and wholly beautiful, with every note manifesting itself as spectacular — the part of the whole and the sum of its parts.

The canon applies not just to such metaphors, but also to science and the beauty of science just as well. As Roger Penrose, the mathematician-philosopher, summed it up succinctly, “It is a mysterious thing, in fact, how something that looks attractive may have a better chance of being true than something which looks ugly. I have noticed on several occasions (in my own work) where there might, for example, be two guesses that could be made as to the solution of a problem, and in the first case I'd think how nice it would be if it were true; whereas in the second case I’d not care very much about the result even if it were true. So often, in fact, it turns out that the more attractive possibility is the true one."

The list is long. Yet, one fundamental fact remains — just as several revolutionary scientific theories built up their remarkable track record, they were all, slowly but surely, declared as aesthetically appealing. As philosopher-statesman Francis Bacon also epitomised, “There is no excellent beauty that hath not some strangeness in the proportion.” This relates, no less, to simple arithmetic equations, the splendour of truth and prettiness of the universe, nature, and every alluring model's basic face.

The idea of beauty is just as consonant with our soul too — to highlight a metaphysical perspective. The soul is the epitome of a certain innate power — one that also acknowledges the beauty of forms. Our soul considers our external structure, the body, as its fabric — one that is in agreement with, appropriate and sociable to its own cherished form. You get the point, don’t you? Picture this — when you think of virtue shining through, in someone you know, it not only looks charming, but also harmoniously profound in their soul.

(The writer is a wellness physician, independent researcher and author)

Rajgopal Nidamboor