“Look at it like this – how long do you think you could sing about gold?”
“It’s yellow and it goes chink and you can buy things with it,” said Tomjon experimentally, as they strolled through the crowds on the Plaza of Broken Moons. “Four seconds, I think.”
– Terry Pratchett “Wyrd Sisters”
That snippet from “Wyrd Sisters” is exactly what I thought of when I picked up the copy of “The Way of Beauty: Five Meditations for Spiritual Transformation” by Francois Cheng that Inner Traditions sent me. A book that discusses nothing but beauty? I mean, how long could I discuss beauty? Let’s see, um, flowers are pretty, puppies are cute, and Angelina Jolie is smoking hot. (I just wish she would put a little of her weight back on. Current Skeletor Jolie is considerably less hot than “Gia” Jolie, can I get an amen in here?) Oh, and sunrises, and sunsets, very beautiful. So what am I at, like 20 words if you don’t count my aside about Angelina Jolie’s current weight? Let’s just say I was curious how you manage to fill 116 pages with an examination of beauty and have it not start sounding like “Gold, gold, gold, gold, gold, gold”.
Fortunately beauty, beauty, pretty, beauty, beauty, beautiful, was not how this book read. “The Way of Beauty” is an exquisitely personal discussion of Cheng’s thoughts on beauty and our relationship with it, that, like all great personal works, readers can find themselves in the text. Here’s one of many beautifully crafted excerpts for you:
Formal beauty exists, of course, but it hardly encompasses the entire reality of beauty. That is more strictly a matter of Being, moved by the imperious desire for beauty. True beauty does not reside only in what is already manifest as beauty; it resides almost primarily in the desire and the impulse. It is a becoming, and the dimension of spirit or soul is vital to it.
“The Way of Beauty” uses Western and Taoist thought to make the reader consider beauty in ways that they may not have thought of before. Honestly, it’s nearly impossible to write a “review” of the book. Such a thoughtful, enlightening, and yes, beautiful book defies review in my opinion.
What I can tell you is that it is beautiful. It will make you think. You should read it.