Marcus Aurelius, from Exhortations to Himself

Book III.2.

We ought to notice that even the the little things produced by nature contain something pleasing and beautiful. For example, when bread is baked, some of the surface splits. This has little to do with what the baker is trying to produce, but those cracks are beautiful and induce us to eat the bread. Or look at figs—when they are very ripe, they split open; or consider olives—overripeness adds a peculiar beauty to the fruit. Or look at ripe grains bending down, or the eyebrows of a lion, or the foam in a wild boar’s mouth, and all sorts of other things—small things that often go unnoticed—still, because they are formed by nature, they are beautiful and please the mind.

If we deeply experience the universe and consider it closely, there’s hardly anything that won’t look beautiful. Looked at this way, even the gaping jaws of wild beasts will give us as much pleasure as the imitations done in painting and sculpture. Looking at an old woman and an old man, we will see maturity and loveliness. And we can look at the beauty of youth without lust. Many things will appear beautiful to those who study nature and look closely.


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