The beauty that cleans

Each of our days has only limited time. Competition for its moments is continuous, intense, at times contentious. We become inundated by a deluge that isn’t just distracting but can be overwhelming – all that noise!

We become uncertain if our conclusions are truly our own. If they are the product of our experiences and considerations. Not the result of some political or sectarian barrage that has penetrated our consciousness then captured our judgment.

I have known folks who became so submerged by rhetoric they suffered unfortunate symptoms. Pressure that began above their eyebrows lowered generating a brown tint that spread throughout the whites of their eyes. A condition that required their immediate attention.

What did these people do?

They had to escape themselves for a time. Then, using beauty as a cleansing agent, they went back in.

Beauty has served mankind well for millennia as a transformational detergent to overcome the dull, the banal, and brown eyes. Mathematicians have found the most accurate solutions to complex problems are often the most beautiful.

But beauty is not dependent upon math. No formula is needed for its revelation. It is often evident simply by taking the time to look.

You may recall Lewis Carroll’s Through the Looking Glass. Alice and Humpty Dumpty provide us with a fine example of what I’m talking about. One day Alice and Humpty had a little chat. It went something like this:

“I don’t know what you mean …” said Alice

“Of course you don’t – not until I tell you.” Humpty replied.

“When I use a word, it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

“The question is,” said Alice,”whether you can make words mean so many different things.”

“The question is” said Humpty, “Which is to be master, that’s all.”

As of 2008 this passage had been cited in over 250 appellate Court decisions in the United States alone. It was used in those unfortunate cases where judges had fancied themselves as masters. Where they had made definitions for words contrary to their meanings.

This passage applies as well to those who would sway us with words creating illusions stripped of insight and vision, generating intolerance and fear.

It applies to those who would be the masters of what we think; who would have us conclude that the meanings they give to the words they use are what we too believe – when they’re not. We need only look within to see their meanings are not what we know to be true.

Truth is the beauty that cleans.

Those who have been restored to themselves have advice for us.

They say the discernment elegance provides works best – eye color is restored sooner – when time is taken to not only look within but also to toss the awful offal out.

To paraphrase Elie Wiesel who said, “The opposite of love is not hate but indifference,” The opposite of beauty is not ugliness – it’s ignoring what we know to be true.

Doug Pugh’s Vignettes run bi-weekly on Tuesdays. He can be reached via email at