There’s beauty everywhere — be it nature, the arts, the sciences, the music of the spheres, or think of what you may. The sublime idea of beauty is also connected to wisdom. It was precisely this timeless principle that prompted the philosopher Plato to ask, “Why, my good sir, must not the wisest appear more beautiful?”

It is agreed that philosophy, as Epictetus observed, does not promise to secure for anyone any external thing, unless, of course, it takes on something from within its “correct” thematic substance. To cull an allegory: what is wood to the carpenter is the “nectar in stone” to the sculptor, just as much as the silicone chip is to the computer engineer. What does this ageless metaphor connote? That, every subject-matter of the art of life is cumulatively related to each person’s own life.

You’d think of the intellect as beauty too — a divine entity. You’d think of the life of the intellect with the life of every human, no less, and to do all that we can, as Aristotle exemplified, to live in conformity with the highest truth, or purpose, that is in us — even when it is minimal in comparison to others loaded with the attribute. Yet, there is a paradox. Philosophy may not always be the most charming thing, if one were to think of a discarded rag as attractive — this could upset the applecart in any of us grappling with the subject, howsoever gifted one is. This is primarily because if one philosophises far too much into the imponderables, the distorted, or the opposites of life, one may find oneself ill-informed of everything that ought to be familiar in the world. Besides, such individuals, as Plato put it, may be unaware of one’s culture, or laws, and of negotiating covenants in private or public affairs, including life’s simple pleasures and desires. In other words, this is tantamount to being utterly “raw” of knowing, or understanding, other peoples’ characters — or, separating the chaff from the grain and vice versa.

The soul is the embodiment of beauty too — it is immortal. It has been born innumerable times. It has acquired the awareness and depth of everything that exists, or does not exist, in the dominion of one’s thought, thinking, or imagination. The soul, as Plato underlined, beholds all things in this world and the nether realms; it has acquired knowledge of all and everything. It is, therefore, no wonder that it should be able to impeccably remember all that it knew before — right from values, virtues, the right or wrong, to other traits, in a manner born. This is also what learning, understanding, and discovering things, covert and overt, including research, is all about — a recollection of what is and what was, or may be. As Epicurus put it, “In a philosophical debate, he gains most who is defeated, since he learns most.”

The idea that it is never too late to learn expresses a sense of beauty, no less. To go back to the sublime wisdom of Plato again: “I tell you, gentlemen — and, this is confidential — that we ought all alike to seek out the best teacher we can find, first for ourselves — for we need one — and, then for our children, sparing neither expense nor anything else we can do; but, to leave ourselves as we now are, this I do not advise. And, if anyone makes fun of us for seeing fit to go to school at our time of life, I think we should appeal to Homer, who said that ‘shame is no good mate for the needy man.’” 

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

Rajgopal Nidamboor