08/30/2013 01:19 pm ET Updated Oct 30, 2013

A Legacy of Beauty

In a world fraught with chaos, violence and destruction, we need beauty more than ever. Why is beauty important, necessary? What sensations and spiritual connections do we derive from beauty? How can we pass forward what we perceive and experience as beautiful to future generations? Big beautiful questions to reflect and write about this month.

Beauty is an appropriate topic for July, the month when we in the Northern Hemisphere are experiencing the long days of summer. We feel awe in the presence of a magnificent flower, a perfect pine cone, a majestic mountain, an ancient tree, a unique sunrise or sunset painted on our sky. Beauty helps us thrive: birds sing their joy as they become empty nesters; human bodies stretch toward the sun; people hike in mossy woods and verdant parks; children laugh and play; grandparents cheer grandchildren who hit baseballs, kick soccer balls, and throw frisbees; gardeners immerse their hands in the moist, fertile earth, weeding and waiting for harvest; vacationers inhale rest after long months of routine.

Remembering we are all created in the image of God, we have the possibility and the ability to add to natural beauty using our creative natures. Human-made beauty lifts us and generations to come: music, dance, all the arts, including crafts, graphic, architectural and industrial design, and more.

"The day beauty divorced meaning... The sun went down and all it was, was night." -- Leslie Harrison

When Steve Jobs' sister told him she was thinking of buying a computer in 1985, he suggested she wait because he was making something "insanely beautiful." In her eulogy, printed in The New York Times, October 30, 2011, she said, "Novelty was not Steve's highest value. Beauty was."

At Stanford's 2005 commencement, Jobs told a story about taking a calligraphy class at Reed College, being moved by the "beautifully hand calligraphed" posters and drawer labels on campus. He was attracted to the "beautiful, historical, artistic subtlety." It all came back to him designing the first Macintosh computer. "We designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography... multiple typeface... proportionally-spaced fonts."

I've been privileged to write on Macs. I named each of my hard drives "Aphrodite" for the goddess of love and beauty. I just finished writing, Your Legacy Matters: Harvesting the Love and Lessons of Your Life, using Aphrodite X. Now my book designer (on his Mac) will make the book beautiful, for readers to be inspired by beauty as well as words.

From whom did my legacy of beauty come? My mother expressed her love of beauty domestically as she set a table, decorated her home, by her personal grooming and her style of dress. Her love of flowers, colors, textures, fabrics, furniture and shoes was a legacy she gave me. Though she died 40 years ago, I remember her when experiencing beauty that makes me gasp in awe, awakens me from the sightlessness of habit. I often think how much she would have treasured the gorgeous colors and rich textures of today's yarns, beads, fabrics and wall coverings.

I remember my sister and I going through my mother's things after she died, choosing beautiful bags and gloves to give to her friends to remember her by -- each beautiful and all her exquisite taste and eye for the unusual, the delicate, the elegant. People tell me even today they still wear her gloves and carry her bags for special occasions.

Leaving a legacy of beauty for future generations means cultivating beauty every day and wherever we can (in nature, in people, in things). Beauty nourishes life. Let's write legacy letters to our kids and grandkids, to our friends and lovers. Let's let our beautiful words awaken our loved ones to the beauty in their lives. Let's be aware that as we express the myriad ways beauty enriches our lives, we participate with the sun in beautifying these long last days of summer.

Suggestions for action:

"Love beauty; it is the shadow of God on the universe." -- Gabriela Mistral

1. Begin by reflecting about the experiences and things that make your heart sing with their beauty. Journal in a free-flowing style about beauty for 10 to 20 minutes for as many days as you enjoy, describing all that's beautiful in your life and in the larger world.

2. If you learned about beauty from an ancestor, remember at least one specific story about beauty that you experienced together when you were young. This may be one of your legacy letters that functions explicitly to link generations coming after you to generations that have come before.

3. Choose a recipient(s) for a legacy letter focused on the value of beauty. Think about what you want to pass forward to them about why you value beauty and share specifically about ways it has enhanced your life.

4. Craft a beauty blessing to conclude your letter.

5. Reflective notes: When you've finished with your letter, and writing about your experience of thinking and writing about beauty, consider making a commitment to recognize, acknowledge and appreciate beauty by taking some action in your everyday life to be an active participant in maintaining this gloriously beautiful planet we inhabit.

May you find beauty in unexpected places, and pass it on to those you love,

Rachael Freed

2012 editions now available of Rachael Freed's Women's Lives, Women's Legacies, Passing Your Beliefs and Blessings to Future Generations, The Legacy Workbook for the Busy Woman [also available as pdf downloads at and Heartmates: A Guide for the Partner and Family of the Heart Patient, and The Heartmates Journal. NEW Her new book, "Your Legacy Matters: Harvesting the Love and Lessons of Your Life, A multi-generational guide for writing your ethical will," is now available, September 2013. Senior Fellow at the University of Minnesota's Center for Spirituality and Healing, Rachael is a clinical social worker, adult educator and works with financial, health, and religious organizations on legacy principles and practices. She has seven grandchildren. Her home is Minneapolis, Minn.

For more information, visit her website.

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