Balance and Beauty in Navajo Worldview
It has been said that Hózhó may be the most important word in the Navajo language. Often translated as ‘balance and beauty’ the concept of Hózhó carries with it an important emphasis on states of harmony. Hózhó also emphasizes the many connections that link the ephemeral and changing parts of the world together into a larger, more persistent and significant whole.
Beauty is central to Navajo life and thought. While Western societies often emphasize beauty as a surface phenomenon, evident in a person's or object's physical appearence, Navajo thinking about beauty extends beyond what can be percieved directly by the senses. It encompasses basic ideas about health, and goodness. This is expressed in orderly and harmonious relationship with other people, with the other parts of the natural world, and with the world of spiritual beings and forces. Physical beauty - visible in a healthy person or a well-crafted weaving - is an indicator of something more. It is an outward sign of a deeper and more all-encompassing beauty. That beauty is a product of striving for harmony in how one lives one's life. This understanding of beauty can be heard, for instance, in the ritual poetry of the Blessingway Ceremony. It contains lines that emphasize the image of "walking in beauty." This involves a person living their life in a harmonious way and as an active, ongoing force for good.
While Hózhó is a central concept in Navajo life - one that unifies the modern Navajo community - each individual must determine how to realize it personally. In weaving, examples of such personal choices arise each time they shear a sheep, gather a plant used as a dye, design and weave a rug, engage with non-Navajo buyers, or help support their families.