Virtues are somewhat personal I think. Religion and spirituality can guide individuals but I think overall, virtues are something that one decides to make the basis of their own personal philosophy. In my own personal spirituality, I’m not sure which came first the virtues or the gods because to me, they are so integrated. My personal virtues certainly are aligned with the gods and goddesses I worship. One of the most important virtues in my personal philosophy is beauty. It goes both ways: I value virtue because I am a follower of Aphrodite, I worship Aphrodite because I value beauty.
Now, beauty isn’t just what society wants us to look or be like, true beauty is inherent. I think part of holding beauty is a virtue certainly is a commitment to looking and doing one’s best to be “beautiful.” One can wear all the makeup possible, and still not fulfill the virtue to live “beautifully.” This is to live fully, to make gracefulness a part of your being. As a kind of daily practice, I go out of my way to make sure people are comfortable and have what they need when I am with them. This is part of the virtue of beauty – being simply gracious. It’s both difficult and takes discipline and pretty simple because it amounts to doing what your mom always told you to do! It’s important to look your best and strive to look “beautiful” (though important to always remember to also look like yourself – since you as were made are a distinct reflection of the gods), but also to act beautifully. Having beauty as a virtue isn’t about sitting around and saying “I’m the fairest of them all” it’s about DOING acts of beauty as well. Aside from being gracious to others you might create art. I help people decorate their homes to be both functional and beautiful, or just simply create a random fairy house installation in a park. I’ve had the joy of working with several women’s shelters helping furnish homes for battered women and have been known to donate personal care products to these shelters in the past. It can be as simple as helping your little sister or niece or nephew recognize their own beauty with a compliment or a little help with overcoming insecurities. Whatever you do to create beauty, that is in my opinion one of the most worthwhile things you can be doing.
Seeing beauty in all things is another part of the virtue of beauty. Recognizing and honoring the beauty all around us is a large part of spirituality however you phrase it. There is something beautiful about everyone, and part of holding the virtue of beauty is learning to see it. It took me a long time to figure this out so I’ll tell you what I do as simply, clearly, and plainly as I can: just look at what you DO like about someone to see their beauty. Don’t focus on the negative; ever. It’s that simple. When I look outside I don’t focus on the uneven fence lines and rag-tag suburban plant life instead I focus on the greenery, the flowers, and give up feeling sad at that moment about the loss of natural habitat. I don’t focus on the smallness of the “wildflower” sanctuaries I am simply happy they are there at all. I’m certainly not going to say forget these things, because I don’t think that’s the solution at all. Those are both things to be very sad or upset about: but when you look outside is not a productive time be sad about those things. We have to learn to both hear and feel the criticisms without allowing them to destroy the beauty of what is present. Just as I take a moment to remind sexual assault victims that what happened was not their fault, and it’s so wonderful they are at the hospital getting medical care now, we too have to remind ourselves sometimes it’s so wonderful to be here now. When you do that you start to see the beauty in the world; first you have to open yourself up to notice it.
An appreciation of beauty isn’t only an Aphrodite or modern neopagan thing, while I was doing some reading to gather my thoughts on the subject of writing about beauty as a virtue I came across this Navajo prayer. Now, I found many versions of this but I liked this one best:
In beauty I walk
With beauty before me I walk
With beauty behind me I walk
With beauty above me I walk
With beauty around me I walk
It has become beauty again
Today I will walk out, today everything negative will leave me
I will be as I was before, I will have a cool breeze over my body.
I will have a light body, I will be happy forever, nothing will hinder me.
I walk with beauty before me. I walk with beauty behind me.
I walk with beauty below me. I walk with beauty above me.
I walk with beauty around me. My words will be beautiful.
In beauty all day long may I walk.
Through the returning seasons, may I walk.
On the trail marked with pollen may I walk.
With dew about my feet, may I walk.
With beauty before me may I walk.
With beauty behind me may I walk.
With beauty below me may I walk.
With beauty above me may I walk.
With beauty all around me may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, lively, may I walk.
In old age wandering on a trail of beauty, living again, may I walk.
My worlds will be beautiful…
*This post is a part of the Pagan Blog Project 2013.