Translated by Greg Johnson; Spanish translation here
We are approaching Christmas (another name for the winter solstice). Associated with the evergreen tree, Christmas has always been celebrated in European countries since time immemorial as the great feast presaging the revival of nature and life after the repose of winter. One cannot help but think that Europe, too, will one day emerge from its current Dormition, even if it is longer than the cycle of nature.
Christmas is for children. It is also a celebration where beauty has its place. Is it not the occasion to reflect upon this vital concept, one of the three components of the “Homeric triad“: “Nature as the foundation, excellence as a goal, the beauty of the horizon”?
Rather than a dissertation on beauty, I want to offer to those who read me some practical advice, without, however, neglecting a meditative reflection: aesthetics grounds ethics (the good is defined by what is beautiful) and ethics grounds aesthetics (the good is inseparable from the beautiful).
Cultivate beauty (aesthetic sense) for yourself and your loved ones. Beauty is not a matter of money and consumption. It resides in all things, primarily in the small details of life.
Beauty is given freely by nature: the poetry of clouds in a bright sky, the patter of rain on a tent, starry nights, sunsets in summer, the first snowflakes, the colors of the forest in winter, the first flowers in the garden, the hooting of the owl at night, the smell of a wood fire above a cottage in the country . . .
If the beauty of nature is given to us, the beauty we create in our lives requires effort and attention.
Remember that there is no beauty (or joy) without harmony of colors, materials, shapes, and styles. This is true for the home, clothing, and small accessories of life. Avoid synthetic and plastic materials in favor of natural ones.
There is no beauty without courtesy in dealings with those close and distant (except jerks).
I noted that aesthetics is the foundation of ethics. Indeed, there is no beauty without moral and physical poise. For example, keep your pains and troubles, those of the heart, body, and work to yourself for the difficult months. You’ll gain esteem for your discretion and a reputation for good company. You will also gain esteem for yourself.
Merry Christmas to all!
Thank you for this Christmas present: the “Homeric triad”. It’s a simple, yet profound, approach to living one’s life, delivered at a most propitious time in my life.
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