Two men stood upon an edge of a cliff, overlooking the land. The first was blinded in a childhood accident; the second was his dear friend, who took care of him every day.
“Can beauty be taken from a man?” The first cheerfully asked to the second.
The second scoffed. “It was taken from you, for you cannot behold the sight before us. Indeed, I know you cannot remember this sight from our childhood. I pray to the Almighty every day that your sight might be returned, that you might know beauty again.”
“Is beauty something one must see, then?” the first asked.
“Obviously. How can you appreciate a work of art without seeing it? Paintings and drawings must all be seen.”
“I can hear a piece of music,” the first hummed. “The chatter of men, the singing in a theatre.”
“Fine, fine. You can find beauty in music, in sound. But you still cannot behold most kinds of beauty.”
“And what of the sculptures found in the king’s gallery? I can feel the edges, the smooth curves, the grooves formed by the chisel. Can I not feel and behold that work of art?”
“I suppose you can behold the beauty of those works of art,” the second admitted.
“And I can eat,” the first grinned. “I love the taste of a pastry in my mouth. That, my friend, is beauty from a chef’s hands. Can I not behold the art of such a masterful chef?”
“I suppose you can find beauty in a chef’s work,” the second frowned.
“I can smell that same pastry as its being made. I can enjoy flowers. The fresh smell of rain, during and after, is nature’s own way of singing in joy that I can partake in.”
“I see you’ve thought this through quite thoroughly.”
“There’s more, my friend. What of the beauty of love?” the first said. “Can I not hear the kindness in her voice, feel the softness of her touch, and laugh at the sharpness of her wit? Can I not feel the thrill, the pulsing of my heart whenever she is near?”
“Fine,” said the second. “But what if all these things were not enough, if all these things were only pain in the end? If you were isolated, starved, your skin burnt ‘til you could not feel, and your ears deafened, you could not know beauty. All that would remain would be pain; therefore, beauty can be taken from a man.”
“What if the pain changes day by day?” The first asked. “If it does, then beauty, to that person, would be the times that pain lessens.”
The second grumpily huffed. “What is your point, my friend?”
The first smiled. “It seems to me that it is in man’s nature to seek beauty in all things.”
“Even in pain?” the second questioned.
“Especially in pain,” the first said, “for we seem to understand that there is a way things should be, and we search for glimpses of those moments.”
The two stood in silence. The second slowly realized that the first was, despite blindness, more able to perceive beauty than he.
“We would not have had this conversation without your blindness,” prompted the second.
The first smiled once again. “Indeed,” he said. “I believe your prayers have been answered, for I can see beauty far more clearly than before I lost my sight. Is that not something beautiful as well, that my blindness should be used to redeem my perception?”
The wind whispered gently over the two.
“This is how the Almighty works,” the second concluded, “in ways that create beauty from pain.”
“You are close to my point,” the first said, a thrill in his voice.
“The Almighty, who created all things, who created mankind, who allowed us to see, to touch, to taste, to smell, to feel, is the source of all this beauty. And though His creation was corrupted, He still creates from the pain more beauty, which we otherwise would not know. He is truly everywhere, for He is beauty, and it is a miracle that we exist and experience Him.”
Written by Isaac: Many thanks to Brandon Sanderson for the inspiration of this short story—the first half is basically just retelling a conversation in the book Words of Radiance from his series The Stormlight Archive.