Elegance is Simplicity

MR. COELHO: Elegance is simplicity. I believe that we need to be elegant, because people confound elegance with fashion.

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah.

MR. COELHO: And that has nothing to do. I learned about elegance not because I was reading about fashion, blah, blah, blah. Because one day I was in Japan and I saw a just totally empty house. And then they have a small detail like, a flower arrangement, or a painting.

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah.

MR. COELHO: And the rest is empty. And I said, oh, my God. What is this? This guy, it was my publisher.

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah.

MR. COELHO: And he said — I will never forget — he said, “This is elegance.” I said, “Elegance?” He said, “Yes, because here, there’s only one detail that you can pay attention. And, because of this elegance is to get rid of all the superfluous things and focus in the most beautiful one.” In this case it was this flower arrangement. So, for me, when I looked at the mountains to the Alps here...

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah.

MR. COELHO: ...that was the line. And I see this white snow and I said, oh, my God, God could have created snow as a rainbow, you know, full of colors. But then this would be a disaster.

MS. TIPPETT: [laughs].

MR. COELHO: You know? Because the beauty of the snow is because it has only one color. The beautiful desert that I — I love deserts, by the way.

MS. TIPPETT: Yeah.

MR. COELHO: I spent forty days in the Mojave Desert back in 1989, and it was so magical, so magical, so magical. So every time that I travel, I visit the desert. But then back to elegance, elegance is that. Is to go to the core of beauty, and the core of beauty is simplicity.

-from the On Being podcast interview with Paulo Coelho