Journey of Beauty–Day 05

“The perception of beauty is a moral test.” -Henry David Thoreau, Journal, 1850.

Rorschach inkblot


Today’s Questions

What do I perceive? What do I perceive as beautiful? What is beauty to you? How do you perceive beauty? How do our perceptions differ? How are they similar? What do our perceptions say about us as individuals, as human beings, or as spiritual beings? Can someone change how they perceive beauty?


As I started today, I wondered what other people have said regarding the Thoreau quote, so I Googled it. First, let me say there is nothing very intelligent that I found written about it.

However, I did find thiswhich I find to be a very poignant and accurate visual accompaniment to the quote. Brava to this artist.

It seems to me this artwork silently poses the questions: What do you see? How do you interpret these squiggly lines? Do you see relative chaos with no meaning? Do you see elegance and beauty? Do you see figures? Where does your imagination take you? 

Similar to a Rorschach test, what a person sees in the squiggly lines is a test, but instead of a psychological test (as with Rorschach), it’s a test of beauty (how that person answers the questions in the preceding paragraph), and therefore of that person’s moral outlook (according to the Thoreau quote).

Now, I encourage you to take a look at the rest of the site, here. Note: I have never visited this site before today, and it was H.D. Thoreau, who brought me to it. I see a lot of artwork. But I do not find all of it beautiful. Similarly, earlier today, I was looking through a home-design magazine, and although I could see style, or fashion, there were many pages where I did not find the style or fashion beautiful.

Which brings me to the question: Is Thoreau right? Does perception of beauty indicate some sort of moral compass? I mean…didn’t I start out this Journey saying (basically), “I have no idea what beauty is, that’s why I need to do this Journey”? Even though I was mainly talking about how I express or create beauty, there was a bit of doubt about my aesthetic sense to be able to recognize beauty. According to Thoreau, if I cannot recognize beauty, I’ve failed a moral test, and I really don’t buy that about myself.

Furthermore, I’ve held off from saying this cliche, but I think now is the appropriate time: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder. If I think something is beautiful, and you think it’s horrendously ugly, does that mean your moral compass is in question? How can I judge anyone’s morality based on what they find beautiful?

Thus, as it stands, I can’t agree with Thoreau.

However, I also don’t think the quote is exactly wrong. Here’s how I see it:

The quote is more about perception than it is about beauty. Perception, in a Course in Miracles, is explained sort of like this: Everyone has perceptions, which we get through our physical senses. But what most people don’t understand is that how we filter all of the information coming through our senses happens first in the brain. The brain chooses which perceptions to focus on before the opportunity for perception even happens. It’s like the experiment done with kittens: kittens who were raised in a room with horizontal stripes painted on the wall had no vertical perceptions as adult cats; their perception was conditioned to the horizontal, and therefore they could not even see the vertical. For a Course in Miracles, this is important because it implies that when you change what you think about, or how you think, you then change what you perceive, and therefore how you interact with the world.

Back to the Thoreau quote: the question is more what are you thinking? than what do you see? And the implication is that what you see points to what you are thinking, or how you are thinking about what it is you see. I do not (and this is my opinion) think there is any necessary or causal relationship between beauty and morality; but I do think that there is a correlation between what people perceive and how they interact with the world.

This discussion could go on and on, couldn’t it? For example, what if I were someone who saw fashion and style as beautiful, and wanted to be surrounded by that beauty, and so had to do some unethical things to get the money or relationships to have a house full of those beautiful things?

Or, what if I found the forest beautiful, and living simply off the land the most beautiful expression of my life, but then someone else had an idea that beauty was making my small piece of heaven into a shopping mall?

Who is right? What is beauty? Who decides?


I had two intentional expressions of beauty today. The first was that I hung some of Tam’s artwork on the wall, thus beautifying the space. Second, I wrote this, which feels a bit like word-play, but there is something to it! I know nothing that I know and know that I know nothing that I know. For I is the first nothing that I cannot know beyond the being of itself, which is nothing.

“Love Included You”: Journey of Worth 2.0 – Day 24

Copyright Tam Black 2016 Designed for
Copyright Tam Black 2016
Designed for

Cracking The Oyster

Happy Monday! Welcome to Day 24!

Another article about Love…with a capital “L”. Susan sure is hard on everyone, isn’t she?! Why does she keep banging away on this subject? Honestly, I think because it’s the most difficult lesson of all; Love is hard! Self-Love…well, that seems almost impossible for some folks.

My personal dos centavos on that: by the time most of us figure out what Love actually is, particularly real self-Love, we’re carrying around so much damage, so much baggage, we either don’t know how to put it down or we don’t think we can ever forgive ourselves for the rotten things we’ve done to others. I promise recovery is possible. It won’t be found in a bottle, or a book…you’ll find it inside yourself; it’ll be stuck in behind those dents, in the bottom of that baggage. It’s there, I promise…Love with a capital “L”…keep looking!

Grab yourself a temperature appropriate beverage, get to your favorite cushy reading spot, and as always…




Guiding Thought

Our worth is inestimable, beyond compare!

We always know we have everything to give—thus, we may always give freely! We know our worth and we give it; we give it freely, and Know in the giving!

As we give, we learn, allowing Joy and Peace to lead and to guide us. We follow willingly for we know: Where there is Joy and Peace, there is Love; where there is Love, we are; where we are, we are giving our inestimable worth.



There is a recurring theme throughout this Journey. Have you seen it? It goes like this:

  1. Who you are, the Truth of you, is infinitely valuable (the Truth of you is Love, the only thing of value).
  2. If you happen to be one of the many billions of people who have forgotten how valuable you are, all you have to do is share yourself in order to remember. That is, you must love; you must be Love, you must be the Truth of you.
  3. Love is infinite; your worth is infinite. What you “have” to give is infinite, so…by all means! Give!
  4. You know you are succeeding because you experience Joy and Peace.

That doesn’t sound so hard does it? There are so many theories that tell us we are hardwired to seek pleasure and avoid pain, why don’t more people seek the pleasure of Joy and Peace through Love? At such a basic level…why aren’t people smarter about this? (There’s also a lot written about this, which I am not going to go into right now.)

I will say this, though: Love is infinite. That means it’s everywhere. Everywhere. Love already exists in everything you do, everything you say, every hope or dream you can imagine. As you go through every moment of your life, what are you valuing?  Love is there already; if you don’t see it or don’t experience it, it’s because you’ve excluded It, not because It has excluded you.

Love includes you. Always. Valuing “things” that are not Love, means simply not recognizing the Love that is in everything, everywhere, including within you.

Richard Bach’s Reluctant Messiah said, “You teach what you most need to learn”. A Course in Miracles states, “As you teach so shall you learn”. I think, for me at the moment, both are true. I can feel myself as part of the many billion who do not know this lesson of Love; I have made it my personal imperative to learn it; I feel like it is the thing I most need to learn right now. And so I teach…and learn!

“How to Listen with Love”: Journey of the Heart 2.0 – Day 26

Journey of the Heart - Day 26 Susan Billmaier for susanwithpearls
Journey of the Heart – Day 26
Susan Billmaier for susanwithpearls

Guiding Thought

We listen to our hearts and with our hearts.

Our hearts pay attention to each other; we listen to each other’s inner voice, the unspoken words.

We care, and we attend with love to each other’s deeper, silent needs, asking each other’s heart, “How may I strengthen you and raise your energy?”

-Play the Guiding Thought here (loops automatically).
Journey of the Heart audio created by Brad Vanlandingham for Susanwithpearls-



“The basic nature of sentient beings is the capacity for enlightenment…

To understand that all sentient beings possess the foundation for becoming enlightened, you need analytical wisdom. First, you need to understand that all your problems stem from your mind’s mistaken view of yourself, of other people, and of all things existing in and of themselves. When you see that this is a mistake, you realize that you can become enlightened, after which you can extend this realization to all sentient beings…this lays the groundwork for developing a desire to help everyone toward enlightenment…

With it, you can engender a strong aspiration to help others by achieving your own enlightenment.”

Becoming Enlightened

His Holiness the Dalai Lama,

translated by Jeffrey Hopkins, Ph.D.


Do you see that we are doing this right now? We are, “engendering a strong aspiration to help others by achieving our own enlightenment.” This Journey, this day, this moment, we are doing it. Let’s look at the quote from the Dalai Lama in the context of the Journey:

First, we need analytical wisdom (thank God!). What does that do for us? We use analytical wisdom to look at our thoughts, to observe our minds, and to discern how we are thinking and then decide if that is how we want to be thinking.

This quote from the Dalai Lama is (of course) from a Buddhist perspective. But analytical wisdom can apply to any framework; analytical wisdom is about being aware of how you think, in order to choose how you want to think.

Many people know how they want to think (and most people think they already are thinking how they want to think). People (in general…I know this is a wide assumption, but bear with me) want to be righteous, upstanding, good parents, good partners, good people. Someone once said to me, “People don’t do things because they think it’s wrong. People do things because they think it’s right.” And I think that is correct, for the most part. People do things because they think what they are doing is right.

Yet, this “right thinking” can cause a lot of pain, struggle, effort, stress for the person and for others. Why? “All your problems stem from your mind’s mistaken view of yourself, of other people, and of all things existing in and of themselves.”

What the Dalai Lama is saying here is that the underlying thoughts about what it means to be “right” are really wrong (“mistaken”). So, when a person is doing what they think is right, there is a good chance they are really thinking or acting from a mistaken viewpoint.

The mistaken viewpoint, according to the Dalai Lama is, “people and things exist in and of themselves.” In A Course in Miracles, this would be called Separation. In Buddha Dharma, the “correct” way of thinking is Dependent Arising: all things and people are dependent upon all things and people; in A Course in Miracles the corrective is Atonement: At-One-Ment.

This is why we need to begin with analytical wisdom. Where do our thoughts originate? In a framework that includes others, or excludes them? In a thought process that sees others as separate from ourselves, or as equal with ourselves?

Every sentient being has the capacity for enlightenment. These Journeys are designed from this foundation. Their contemplative nature provokes your analytical wisdom and asks you to think about what you think, and what you want to think. This is one reason there can be disruptive thoughts during the Journey; your mind is vying with itself over its dominant thoughts. The Journeys give you thoughts of Oneness, of Love, of Peace, if you choose to accept them and replaces thoughts of separation or disharmony with them. The rounds are designed to bring you to a place of inclusion, so you learn to have thoughts that consider others naturally.

Our hearts pay attention to each other; we listen to each other’s inner voice, the unspoken words. We care, and we attend with love to each other’s deeper, silent needs, asking each other’s heart, “How may I strengthen you and raise your energy?”

Do you want to become enlightened? Do you believe it’s possible?

I do.

And I sincerely want to help strengthen and raise your energy. I have a strong desire to help you to enlightenment. That’s why I’m here.