Beauty is the promise of happiness

“Beauty is the promise of happiness,” quotes Alain de Botton in The Architecture of Happiness. The quotation came from someone named Stendhal, and while both he and Botton note the aphorism is indeed a generalization it retains its prowess.

One of the things I love about reading is that other people are able to put into words things I have felt but haven’t been able to articulate. Some of the time I’m aware of these ideas; others I didn’t know I had the idea until I read something that rings as clear as a bell over the prairie.

The above phrase is just such an articulation. Botton’s beautiful writing pulled me along at a quick pace (quick, at least, for this moderately paced reader), but when he quoted Stendhal I stopped. It was a light bulb moment. “Beauty is the promise of happiness.” Such a simple sentence with so much meaning, at least to me.

And even with the complexity of the generalization to my sometimes skeptical mind, the quote still holds water. The complexities, in fact, are what Botton’s book is about. Beauty is quite different from one person to another, as is our idea of happiness. Regardless, I can affirm in my own life that — for good or bad — beauty is the promise of happiness.

The idea needs flushed out a little more, but that will have to be for another time.


About pcNielsen
Paul Nielsen founded The Aesthetic Elevator late in 2005. He owns a piece of paper, located somewhere in his house (not on the wall), stating that he earned a B.F.A. from the University of Nebraska around about 2001. While there, he studied studied architecture, graphic design and ceramics, graduating with a degree in studio art. Paul presently serves as communications manager for a small non-profit doing their print design and marketing. He spends as much time sculpting in his studio as possible — which is not nearly enough. Visit his website at

6 Responses to Beauty is the promise of happiness

  1. Tim J. says:

    I’m not well versed in architecture, but I’d like to read Botton’s book.

    Of course, at the rate you are quoting it, I may not need to!

    Heh. (place emoticon here).

  2. pNielsen says:

    The book, from what I understand, is geared towards the general public as much or more than architects.

    And I’m actually holding back from quoting it as much as I could . . . it’s definitely worth finding a copy of.

  3. marysienka says:

    true! true! that’s the thing that keeps me writing: those rare moments when I take the fewest words to say something huge and clear.
    regarding the “promise of happiness”: doesn’t CS Lewis say something (many somethings) about how humans are happiest when they’re in a state of desire? that it’s not about Right Now, but about later?
    anyway, great post!

  4. Julie says:

    What a great quote. Thank you for sharing it, and your thoughts…

  5. S.G. says:

    ‘someone named Stendhal’ killed me. Lol.

    Simply ‘someone’, really? I would have thought people would have given him more credit than that. :/

  6. nabuk says:

    really Stendhal is not someone. but I guess the level of culture of the author is not even medium..

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