Thursday, July 2, 2009

B-E-A-U-T, but whY?

I've noticed how a few of my classmates have written about the argument of "beauty" and found it interesting, so I wanted to follow suit. There is the moral question of beauty, and the purely aesthetic question of beauty. And then there's this question , "What is beauty?" If you read about 6 or 7 posts ago, you would know that a favorite activity of mine is defining words. I've often wondered if there wasn't some dictionary writer somewhere, sometime, who, while compiling words, accidentally forgot a few or let a page of words drop from his desk into extinction. What would that mean for us? What if there were emotions for words that have disappeared from our society's vernacular? Could there be words for emotions that we simply do not know? Does that mean the emotions themselves would cease to be, because we would cease to define them? My brother calls these, "Five Dollar Words". The words we use, but that we really might not understand. I think beauty can be a 5 dollar word for us. There could be emotions that really aren't expressed correctly with the word beauty, but that is the only word that comes close. Language is fascinating, isn't it?

The moral question of beauty. Does something cease to be beautiful to us, when we learn that the peculiarities of that thing are evil? The example in the reading was the Author's experience with the "purple loose strife", a flower that rapidly destroys the ecosystem necessary to water purification, which sustains a wide range of plant and animal life. His ecologist friend forcefully stated that the flower was ugly to her, the very sight of which nearly sent her into gagging. The Author states that he could not deny the beauty of the flower, as he sat in the cool wetlands, and admired the, "tall, purple flower that brightens the marshy shore". Do we cease to gasp before the grandeur of a european Cathedral because we know each stone was laid by the hands of laboring slaves? Is a picture of Christ beautiful to us because we know the importance and sacrifice of His earthly ministry? Is beauty a moral question; a sympathy to an order of (depicted) ideals? 

The aesthetic question of beauty. Beauty is, I would say, obviously not in the object itself. Just as the words: smooth, tall, delicious, and difficult, are dependent upon the forces of requires the critic. No falling tree in any forest will be heard if no one is present, likewise, no painting will ever be beautiful if no one is there to see it. But with that comes also the question: is beauty just a physical/mental/emotional response to something? A feeling of aesthetic pleasure? Is beauty just the right mix of colors and texture? When you meet a pretty girl(or guy, i guess.), is your first impression of beauty a lasting one--or does it fluctuate once you know her character?

So, maybe after three paragraphs this 'beauty' question isn't interesting to you anymore, but nothing has been solved yet. I think I've come to the conclusion, for myself, that beauty lies in contrast. My feeling is that pain and unpleasantness are the antagonists of beauty. Mind you, I do believe that there is beauty to be found in the pains of life.  Those who have experienced pain or unpleasantness in deep degrees, have such a higher capacity to appreciate beauty...moreover, to find beauty in sometimes the more unlikely places. Beauty is rarely one dimensional. This painting is not beautiful to me because the colors and swirls are simple aesthetically pleasing (which they are), but because of the thoughts I have, knowing that Van Gogh found God shortly before painting it, and the protection that brings in an otherwise harrowing world.
By the way, has anyone seen that Boy Meets World episode? It's a beautiful one.


  1. "to find beauty in the more unlikely places." I loved that phrase. Haha and I've totally seen that Boy Meets World episode.

  2. Gotta respect any reference to Boy Meets World. And I totally agree. How do we define beauty? It seems to me that something can appear ugly in appearance, but be beautiful in its message and truths. Some movies are extremly gory and gritty, but end up making some point that causes us to look at things in a new light. Is that beautiful? I say yes.

  3. just to be nitpicky, the European cathedrals were more community centered and not built by proper "slaves" while the Greek and Roman buildings certainly were.

    I like your idea that beauty lies in contrast, and that we can better appreciate beauty when we have experienced ugliness and pain.