Some of you may be aware that I have been an armchair philosopher for quite some time.  Well, this term I came out of the closet and joined a ‘club’ called the Sydney School of Philosophy (I bet that took a while to think up). It has been…….. enlightening!

Philosophy - Peeling back the layers to find out who we are

For me, the idea of  “I think therefore I am” , Descartes is pretty important even though I often find myself wondering what it actually means.  I find freedom in philosophy, freedom to think without being boxed in, without prejudice and with complete attention.  It isn’t easy and I often find that every ‘eureka’ moment then comes with a ‘but what if’ question.  I can totally relate to Socrates and his “I know nothing” notions.   But that doesn’t mean that knowing nothing is a scary place to be.

Realizing that we know very little allows us to (in theory and yes, this is hard to implement) live in the moment, ask real questions and get some really interesting answers. Well, that is if we listen!

But what has all of this got to do about beauty?

Well, last week we toyed around with some notions of beauty.  It would be incredibly impressive of me to lay out the philosophical time-line of past and present philosophers thoughts on this issue but to be honest, I have very little idea of who said what when (but true to my nerd-self, I am looking into it)

Anyway, what happened in the past is all very good but we are alive today in a time when celebrity’s are Gods,  magazines are our holy books and the body is everything. 

So is beauty in the eye of the beholder?

I have been researching our feelings of beauty for my book (coming out in September if I can type  quickly enough) and have been surprised at how many people define beauty in the purely physical sense while at the same time being stunned by the stories from people who have found beauty in freedom, health, family and music. 

Beauty can be experienced in the things that we see, the food that we eat, the care that we show each other, the love of how our bodies work and feel, the sounds that we hear and the comfort that love can bring. 

Thinking of all of this good stuff leads us to an initial conclusion that beauty is indeed vast, changing, different and multi-faceted and on one level it sure is.

But just like the veneer on that Ikea bookshelf, you don’t have to work too hard to get underneath the beauty gloss. To find out what beauty really is.

Underpinning all of these things is a constant, timeless, boundless truth that is as old as the hills and as fresh as a newborn baby.  To my mind beauty is within and without us. It is entwined in the cholera causing micro-organism, surrounding the virgin rain-forest and knitted through our DNA.  Quite simply, beauty just is.

But what does that mean?

I don’t know for sure but being a sometimes chemist and all-time scientist I like to think of things in their atomic form knowing full well that that still leaves a sub-atomic world that I don’t fully understand and a  beauty blog readership that hated high-school chemistry. 

My theory of beauty in a few easy steps:

  • Whether man-made or natural, destructive or peaceful beauty exists within the order and disorder of that thing.


  • All stuff is made of atoms which are in turn made up of positive and negative charges.


  • Each one of these atoms has the ability to affect its neighbours by pulling them in or spitting them out.  Think of it like a Mexican wave. If one atom is waving, it will send ripples through others in its vacinity! That isn’t trivial. THAT can make all the difference between graphite and a diamond.


  • The beauty is (physically) there in the abundance of nature. In the ability of all of these atoms to come together, form new connections and make things happen. Not everything that happens will be humanly beautiful but for the process to be truly beautiful anything has to be possible. Chaos is beautiful – my desk is living proof!

So what does this mean in practical terms?

For me it means liberation. Freedom to bask in the wonderful beauty that has everything yet nothing to do with how we look or feel at any particular time.   Energy is beautiful – not ‘good’ energy, ‘bad’ energy, ‘high’ energy or ‘low’ energy. Just that invisible force that moves us!

We are beautiful because we are. That is it!

So is it silly to worship our physical beauty as much as we do?

 In my mind it isn’t but this really is a question for the individual to answer. As a society we place great value on looking a certain way. It can mean the difference between success and failure,  joy and sorrow,  boundless energy and exhaustion.  It isn’t easy to live here but we do.

Personally I take great solace in the thought that I don’t just have some inner or outer or essence or aura of beauty that  envelopes me.  I am nakedly beautiful in the true sense of the word.  To illustrate that I like to think about the beauty that surrounds an unborn child:

Many of us have experienced the pure joy and anticipation that surrounds the news of a pregnancy within the community. It’s all new-life, optimism and amazement.  No matter what that babies future,  that unborn child touches the lives of countless people who are sharing in this joyful occasion.  

Our external beauty can affect people in the same way that the unborn child does.  By wearing a smile we can create a mexican wave of happiness through everyone that we meet.  By choosing to look groomed we can show others that we made an effort for them, that we wanted to present ourselves in the best way.  For our own sake we can enjoy our external beauty by treating ourselves like a living, breathing art gallery – we can display our thoughts, values, likes and dislikes thorough the make-up, clothing and aura. We can and should enjoy our bodies in a way respects our true self.

What isn’t helpful is to see the physical as the sum of ourselves.  External beauty will come and go and that it’s self is beautiful. However, for those that  identify themselves as being the ‘leggy blonde’ or the ‘one with the deep brown eyes’ or the ‘petite’ one  pain is just around the corner when you realize that you are not the only or the best example of this. Far better to stick to something more permanent!

The concept of a universal beauty, a singular beauty absolute is not an easy thing to visualise.  It may not even be real but it does appeal to me.  For some people this is called “God” whereas others leave it nameless.  That is not for me to debate.

Beauty really is everywhere and THAT is worth celebrating.

Oh, and if atoms aren’t your thing, I find that the vibrations from a drum work just as well 🙂