Published: July 15, 2014

“What is beauty, father?” “What do you think?”

“What is beauty, father?” “What do you think?” "I want you to take me from the edges into the core so that I have a better understanding of beauty."

 “What is beauty, father?”

“What do you think?”

“I don’t know. I look at this glass in front of us and my eyes spot the reflected light from the glass on the table, and I’m baffled by these patterns, by this beauty which is perfectly still, perfectly independent, and calm.”

“So, is beauty only in still and independent objects?”

“I don’t think so. When I see the sea or the water inside this glass if it were to be shaken wildly, my eyes start to float along the waves, and I’m once again mesmerised by the water’s endless movement, its indifference, its power, and instead of my eyes, my heart begins to well-up because it cannot truly understand the beauty.”

The father smiles, and raises his hands,

“Look, you have the answers. Why ask me?”

“I only have observations of beauty, father, I have possibly only seen a mere glimpse of the outlines of the infinite circle of beauty. I want you to take me from the edges into the core.”

“Why do you assume I would know the way to the core?”

“I don’t know, don’t you?”

“I am just a spectator like you who is standing on the periphery, completely awed, completely baffled.”

“Haven’t you ever met someone who has been to the core?”

“Look Ghaffar, tell me if there was a goal which your heart had laced its horizon with, and one day you were able to reach that goal, roam that territory, would you want to go back to your starting place?

“Yes, of course.”

“And what would you do then?”

“I would tell everyone about it, so they know how to reach that goal.”

“And would people believe you?”

“Of course. Why won’t they?”

As his father begins to answer, a reluctant smile shines upon Ghaffar’s face, and the father’s speech stops midway, and smilingly returns back.

“Ah, father, why? Why must people be so rigid about the unseen? Why must their habits be set only in circles, and not in spirals?”

“A man once said; every ear is not attuned to the word of truth, as a fig suits not the palate of every bird. That could be one answer. But at the moment, let’s forget about the people, my son. There, inside these often xenophobic hearts, are corridors which bring our senses to their feet, shaking with awe, shaking uncontrollably. There are rooms of beauty that are unimaginable. And inside the rooms, sit ideas, desires and fears intermingled so intricately that it is impossible to distinguish one from the other.”

“So the core of beauty is not external, but internal?”

“That is what I have understood. But I would be happy if you went on a journey, and found something otherwise. There is no greater pleasure than adding a stair in the endless staircase of knowledge, and removing an obsolete stair.”

“But let’s get back to beauty; my heart was dancing with each description. I want to hear more!”

“You see a child’s expression when he/she sleeps, that is beauty, you see the lake of concern in the forehead of any mother, you pay complete attention to any tongue and your ears fill up with the images that are uttered – that is beauty. You see the reflection of wavering leaves on the floor, the sound of a voice that attaches itself to your heart with its pitch; you fasten yourself to a paintbrush in the hands of an amateur painter, who paints solely for himself; that is beauty.

You fit your existence inside a verse or a sentence, you touch a historical relic, disappearing inside the dust that has gathered for decades; all of these constitute beauty, and these are merely glimpses. If these images are enough to unsettle our hearts with waves of pleasure, then imagine what the rest of beauty’s domain will do to us. And Ghaffar, none of these aspects have to be compared with the waves of the sea, or the patterns of light, because each of them is beautiful, and what is beautiful should be just that, and not be wasted around in debates about comparison and competition.”

“More, I want to hear more of beauty’s faces.”

The father laughs, and the child’s heart stops for a second, and registers another source of beauty.

Silence is beautiful. Inside silence, there is no reason to prove to anyone who you are, what you want to be, what you were. There is but observation. There is but enjoyment. There is but entertainment as you look around the world. And, silence, the one that is absent from any fear or obligation is sacred; in moments, it makes one realise the consequences of one’s life. In seconds, a thousand previous impressions and ideas fall to their feet with one mere gaze of silence.”

“But you just said words could be beautiful too?”

“They can be, but when you speak about an emotion of yours, are the words fully able to capture each face of the emotion, each of its mood swing, its blush, each cry and smile, or the way it expands and overlaps with other emotions around it?”

Ghaffar momentarily closed his eyes, and looked curiously at the bizarre imagery that had just appeared in his mind, and slowly, with pleasure, shook his head.

Zain Murtaza Maken

Zain Murtaza Maken

A teaching fellow at Teach For Pakistan, he loves to write and read.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Amna

    Your imagination is beautiful. Amazing piece of written art.Recommend

  • tuba butt

    You wrote beautifully .
    2 day before i was thinking to write an essay about beauty but i felt u just wrote all that is needed .
    I lved the line ” sound of voice that attaches itself with your heart with its pitch ” as if this sentence has described all my ideas n thoughts.
    Some times it happens , wht you think is said by someone before u express n instead of regret u feel satisfaction on his expression . I think i am in that situation . Lol.

  • Muhammad Faizan

    I’m out of words to express my appreciation on this emotional exchange of heart sinking conversation that I’ve just read. I cannot convey to you how lucky on Earth we are to have talented writers like you dear. Expecting more from your end in future. Such a small read but so much quality and beauty.

    You’ve got to be a beautiful person by all means
    God bless us allRecommend

  • Hasan

    Great writing!

    “A man once said; every ear is not attuned to the word of truth…”
    There is a sufi saying, I can’t remember the exact words, but it goes something like, when someone has discovered the truth about the universe/world/system etc, they are desperate to tell everyone so all may benefit but the people reject his claims. The may even prosecute him, thus all the great thinkers and movers like Da Vinci, Galileo, Prophets etc were all outcast. This is the problem that the human society suffers from unfortunately.

    Its always a nice feeling to know that there are people out there who think, and not just think about mundane stuff but real abstract philosophical stuff like this! :)Recommend

  • Supriya Arcot

    Beauty lies in the eye of the beholder .what looks like a dusty dinghy spiderweb for one is an intricate , complex pattern for the other .Recommend

  • Zain Murtaza Maken

    Hasan! You are absolutely right, I did draw that message from that saying And to have like-minded people is a blessing, thank you for writing back! :)Recommend

  • Zain Murtaza Maken

    Tuba, I have the exact feeling a lot of times when I’m reading the thoughts of another person, and I think thats amazing if we can feel satisfaction for having our own thoughts come alive in the words of someone else :)

    Would love to see your ideas on beauty!Recommend

  • Hareem Salman

    Beautiful thoughts, beautifully portrayed in a beautiful piece of writing :’)Recommend

  • chillipepper

    i really enjoyed reading your should keep on writing. the philosophical thoughts and abstract beauty is blended by you so mildly that it gives a tranquil relief and “happiness” not a pleasure. throughout reading your anecdote i felt cool breeze blowing around me and me standing aside listening to the conversation of father and son :) .Recommend

  • Ritambhara

    “Ah, father, why? Why must people be so rigid about the unseen? Why must their habits be set only in circles, and not in spirals?”
    That I think sums up this entire piece. Why must we always want to entrap some concept/person/object by some rigid description? I like how the father is able to convey the uselessness of the exercise to his son without making him feel that his question was baseless (because it was not) – such questions are necessary as are such answers which encompass everything within its purview. Great writing.Recommend

  • Uzair Ahmed Siddiqui

    Worth a read Murtaza..! Loved it!!
    You just more beautified the beauty!! Keep writing!!Recommend

  • Sabeen Sadiq

    I cannot seem to feel more pleased to keep reading what you write! Please spread more happiness through your beautiful work! :D Lots of well wishes your way!Recommend

  • SQ

    Thumbs up…that’s all I can say. Beauty beautified by words.Recommend