Beauty, Goodness, Truth: Writer Reflects on Treasured Values


Tintern Abbey and the Wye River (Havell)

by Sandra Williams*

Revised: Originally published in My Favorite Things: Beauties Are Joys Forever, Studio B Art Gallery's 2021 anthology of poetry, prose, and art. 

Beauty, Goodness and Truth are not just a “few" of my favorite things, but very precious things for everyone. I strive to understand and reflect them in my life--falling far short most times, no doubt. Although they are not just “things,” rather they are qualities, or states of being; nevertheless, they are manifested outwardly and inwardly, in ourselves, in others and in the seen and unseen worlds. They are recognizable in people, places and life situations. The words of a song from The Sound of Music only begin to suggest the effects of my favorite things, “When I'm feeling sad / I simply remember my favorite things / And then I don't feel so bad.” There is so much more than remembering and feeling better. Beauty, Goodness and Truth each has the capacity to convey various levels of meaning day to day, and throughout a lifetime.That this trinity exists affirms life and inspires us as touchstones and guides.


In William Wordsworth’s poem, “Lines Written Above Tintern Abbey,” he returns after five years to the banks of the River Wye in Wales. Seeing the abbey again, and the surrounding landscape, he realizes that, “These beauteous forms, / Through a long absence, have not been to me / As is a landscape to a blind man's eye.” He tells us the scene living in him all those years was, “Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart; / And passing even into my purer mind.” I, believe, as did Wordsworth, that Beauty has, “no slight or trivial influence / On that best portion of a good man's life / His little, nameless, unremembered, acts / Of kindness and of love.” When Beauty, seen or recollected, “the heavy and the weary weight/ Of all this unintelligible world/Is lightened.” Young poet, A.E. Housman was also affected by Beauty in "The Loveliest of Trees.” He estimates he has "threescore years and ten" to live life (70 years), and realizes that “Twenty will not come again /And since to look at things in bloom / fifty springs are little room/About the woodlands I will go/To see the cherry hung with snow.” Wordsworth and Housman tell us how beauty affects them. Fyodor Dostoyevsky wrote, “Beauty will save the world.”

Does beauty have such power? Yes!

As newlyweds, over 50 years ago now, my husband and I spent a year in Florence, Italy. I treasure golden memories of being young, a life ahead, and beauty all around in a city that, to me, was like a work of art in itself: the architecture, galleries, cathedrals, sunlight falling on red tile roofs and ancient stone, gardens and fountains, tall cedars on azure hills of orchards and vineyards, and the church bells resounding. All are "living" memories.

That which is beautiful we love, and in loving, we respect and protect. Whether Beauty in the moment or recollected, it brings peace and a joy felt. It can lighten the heavy and weary weight of the world. A thing of beauty is a joy for ever / Its loveliness increases; It will never / Pass into nothingness.” (Keats)


Under the umbrella of Goodness are many other qualities to consider: broadly, morality and ethics, including honesty, civility, patience, kindness, compassion, integrity, those actions and deeds for the common good. Goodness comes in many forms: Simple—paying it forward to the person behind you, when the person ahead of you at Starbucks has paid for your coffee. Profound, as the story goes that one of Mahatma Gandhi’s Hindu followers was distraught when his son was killed in a skirmish between Hindu and Muslim mobs: Gandhi advised, “Go and find an orphan child born of Muslim parents, adopt him as your own son, and bring him to worship Allah with the ideal of non-violence.” A saintly lesson in Goodness!

We do not always see Goodness or are able to adhere to it when we most need to. It is often compromised, intentionally or unintentionally perverted in personal, ego aggrandizement, conspiracies and other professional, political, cultural and even religious distortions. It can be, and often is, difficult to live up to its demands, yet examples are all around, if we but observe with clear eyes, heart and mind. We can also contribute to Goodness in our lives and in the world in significant ways, large and small, for the benefit of another, or for the common good, which fosters hope for and faith in humanity and the future.


Truth is relative it is said, which mostly refers to “our own truth,” specific to us as individuals, having formed opinions and beliefs based on perceptions, experiences and the information we have (or do not have) at the time. It is often hard to say what is true, and who has absolute truth. Only such truth that is irrefutable can be absolute—such as in science and mathematics, i.e., the earth is round and 2 + 2 = 4, though some dispute the former, (maybe even the latter!). My understanding of the probability of living truthfully (again, myself falling far short) has to rest in a commitment (and re-commitment) to striving to seek truth by observing closely, listening with an open mind and heart, knowing how to think critically and employing it, then speaking honestly, acting cautiously, and as kindly as possible in all of our relationships and interactions, which helps create respect for and trust in one another and life in general.

Then there are truths involving the transcendent, significant if unverifiable truths, discernible in spiritual teachings, psychological principles, philosophy, myths; music, literature and art, as well as in nature and the inscrutable universe. All have the capacity to inspire, motivate, enrich and sustain us beyond measure.

Beauty * Goodness * Truth

Often Beauty, Goodness and Truth are interwoven in the meaning and mystery of them. My three favorite things are often separately indistinguishable, as are the threads in a rich tapestry design, yet, each with the power to pass into our purer mind, lightening the burden of this world and, perhaps, rendering it more intelligible.

*Sandra Williams shares her inspirations. A writer of poetry, essays and short stories, she believes writing is both therapeutic and enlightening— “When we become aware of what inspires us, we expand our imagination and tap into our intuitive selves.” She collaborates with her husband, Robert, local landscape and mural painter, promoting community arts. She is the author of the historical novella, Moss on Stone and Time and Tide: A Collection of Tales.

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