From Physical Beauty to Spiritual

Physical beauty can exert such an intense pull on us (men), because we are creatures of sense. That impact can be very immediate and powerful. Seeing a very beautiful woman can often feel like a punch to the gut.
The higher beauty (because it is of the intellect, rather than the senses – possible in man as a rational animal) is usually felt less strongly. It typically comes through a longer and slower process of reflection or contemplation (rather than hitting us suddenly from the outside). It takes effort to rise from a lower beauty to a higher one: from physical beauty to spiritual beauty.
A man can look at his wife sometimes and (if he is fortunate), be awe-struck at her kindness, insight, her sheer goodness – despite her faults, which he knows better than any other person, having lived so close to her, perhaps for many years.
This “beauty” is less immediate, but deeper and higher. It is more dependent on attention and reflection. It is (like all beauty) a response to a vision of harmony, not so much in the proportions, size, color of a body and its various features (breasts, waist, hips, derriere, legs, hair, eyes, lips, nose) – which can be so attractive – but rather in a unique, kaleidoscopic harmony of many personal qualities, especially virtues: goodness, kindness, self-sacrifice, depth of insight and wisdom (sometimes practical rather than theoretical), modesty, humor, patience, perseverance, fortitude, and, of course, love.
The perception of this personal beauty – the beauty of a person, not just a body – leads naturally to a deep sense of appreciation and gratitude . . . to her, and (for those who don’t believe it results from a simply random natural process governed only by chance) to God.
This is especially important for older men, because their wives are naturally going to have a declining physical beauty over time. They can appreciate even that declining physical beauty, partly by looking at it through the lens of memory — the person at whom they are looking is not just in this moment, but has been part of an entire lifetime. And it is especially by deepening their appreciation of their wives’ personal qualities – seeing the physical in the light of the spiritual – that they can say sincerely to their wives (as they should): “how beautiful you are, my love!”


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