Kindness and Elegance

Last night staring at my walls I suddenly had the idea to grab my laptop and start watching a vintage movie. I mean one of those films that makes me forget I am in lockdown and has the power to lift my spirit somewhere above the clouds. The movie in question was “Funny Face” a 1959 intoxicating mix of kindness, elegance and originality starring Fred Aster and Audrey Hepburn. 
Oooh yes!

Now, I wondered, why kindness and elegance are so soothing to me? What are they, really?

Let’s see.

An art composition, for example, works if there is harmony and balance between the shapes and forms in such a way that, even if these are all different, they would create a union together.

Different shapes that have similar characteristics, like curvy lines and circles, are visually harmonious to our eyes. Contrasting shapes like spiky lines against curves lead to visual discord instead. So, pleasing the eye through mixing different elements would be possible but only if done in a harmonic way.

Stay with me, this is going somewhere!

The same principles apply to nature. Elegance is simplicity, it is accord and agreement of different shapes, forms and colours, it is a ‘tasteful balance of the opposites’ I would say.

However, I find that in the world we are living in right now, too often the main ingredient of a ‘tasteful balance of the opposites’ is missing.

The design, architecture, fashion and art worlds often seems to focus on ‘impressing’, ‘shocking’ and literally celebrating the ‘ugly’, making use of contrasting elements that create no harmony together. In the fast-paced world in which we are living in, there seems to be no need to increase knowledge of quality. What seems to count are quantity and speed. It seems to me that for the majority of people if something can be obtained or made fast then it gains in value. 

So for example, learning is good if it can be done quickly, satisfying our sense of accomplishment (no matter 'what' we actually accomplished). A restaurant is excellent if the food we ordered is served on speed and we have the impression it tastes great (no matter 'what' we are actually tasting).

Speed in our lives also affects how we relate to each other and how we communicate, often leaving no space for a graceful and calm attitude. Empathy becomes more and more an obscure concept. The ability to feel how others feel, to be compassionate and kind is often not regarded as a value to pursue in life and certainly not a component of being elegant!

So why is a 1959 movie like Funny Face so soothing?

It’s because the message of its characters, Jo Stockton (Audrey Hepburn) and Dick Avery (Fred Aster), resonates with me. They transport me into an imaginary world where they celebrate kindness, originality and intelligence as the real qualities and values at the base of commercial success.

This is perhaps my biggest wish for 2021:

I hope that our society will focus more on the values of kindness, originality and real beauty, embracing the knowledge of quality that only comes from slow processes, attention to details and genuine empathy towards each other.

What is your wish for this 2021? Would love to know. Feel free to comment below!