Moral beauty. Like that term? I love that term.
Bet you’re wondering what it means.
Moral beauty is the beauty of people’s actions reflecting deep character, generosity and virtue. The experience of moral beauty inspires feelings of awe in us. Wait, I’ve always associated awe with nature’s bounty, incredible music and spiritual experiences. NOW you’re telling me awe is inspired by other “people’s courage, kindness, strength or overcoming”? Not the Grand Canyon, a splendid sunset or the majesty of a whale erupting from the depths? Come on! Get real.
I am getting real! Real science-y, that is. Guess what led people to experience awe most frequently? (And this is social science-based research.) It’s folks like you and me virtuously DOING GOOD.
Really. Not kidding.
Of course, I’m not maligning nature’s beauty, which often leaves us with our mouths hanging open. But I kid you not: “We’re most likely to feel awe when moved by moral beauty: exceptional virtue, character and ability, marked by goodness of intention.”
So there. Moral beauty rates even higher, awe-wise, than the Grand Canyon. (And is considerably more accessible.)
Oh, but wait, here’s a thought, making a swift return to that lovely term, moral beauty. (BTW, just repeating the phrase “moral beauty” several times over leaves me with a sense of calm. A possible new mantra? Give it a try.) Bet you’re thinking “This is where Jan suggests we ALL begin to register felt awe when perceiving acts of moral beauty.”
A terrific idea, but NOT what I had in mind. Nope, not all.
How about regularly embodying moral beauty? Each of us. Yep, personally incarnating facets of moral beauty as a conscious practice in our daily lives. Now, I’m not asking that you do anything that I don’t try myself. I test drove “Hey, I’m going to act in the manner of moral beauty now,” and was truly surprised by the outcomes. I found myself extending kindness in ways I’d not anticipated or even experienced previously. And liked the unexpected impacts. Rather like priming the pump and discovering an unexpected increase in water output. Watering the roots of awe and goodness at the same time.
So, all together now, on to moral beauty…
Jan Hutton is a retired hospice/hospital social worker who believes in living life with heart and humor. She has happily lived in Chatham for 20 years.