Here a poet said: Speak to us of Beauty – not that the poet does not know, but knowing is one thing and saying is another. The question is not arising out of ignorance, neither is it arising out of mere borrowed knowledge. The question is arising from an existential experience. The poet knows in every cell of his being what beauty is, but is unable to bring that experience to expression.
Once a great poet of India, Rabindranath Tagore, was asked after he was given the Nobel Prize on one of his collections of poems, “Have you ever been concerned about beauty, about what it is?”
He said, “Concerned? I am possessed! I know what it is. I have tasted the wine and I have been drunk, but every effort to express the taste and the experience of being drunk has failed. All my poems are nothing but failures. Again and again I have been trying to express what beauty is, and again and again I have failed. I will go on trying to the very last breath, but deep down I know perhaps I’m asking for the impossible.”
The question is arising from a poet who has seen beauty, who has loved beauty, who has felt its magic touch, who has danced with it, whose days and nights are nothing but a continuous flow of experiencing deeper and deeper realms of beauty. Still, to express it, to define it, seems to be impossible. His question is very authentic and sincere.
Kahlil Gibran tries to answer the poet in the most beautiful way, the most profound way, and comes very close to the definition; yet he has not been able to define it. But he has pointed his finger toward the moon. He may not have reached the moon, but he has indicated the right direction. Very few people have come so close.
One of the great philosophers of the contemporary world, G.E. Moore, has written a book Principia Ethica. The whole book, two hundred and fifty pages of very subtle and complex logical argument, is centered on only one question: what is good? And as you read his book, you think perhaps he is going to find it.
He takes great plunges into the depths, flights into the heights, but in the end he sums up by saying that good is indefinable: “I accept my failure. I have done everything that is possible – from every aspect I have approached, on every door I have knocked. The more I have thought about it, the more and more elusive it has become. And, in the end, only one thing is certain after this whole exploration, that I should confess the fact that good is indefinable.”
He was an honest man. Your so-called religious people are not so honest. They go on defining even God – what to say about good? They go on defining truth, beauty, good… Not that their definitions are of help in any way to anybody; they simply show their dishonesty. They use beautiful words, they use very complex arguments; they can deceive millions of people, but they cannot deceive themselves. This poet himself may have tried in thousands of ways, but he is accepting his failure.