“We do not want merely to see beauty…We want something else which can hardly be put into words – to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”
It would be fair to say I consider my entire purpose and desire is to explore life and find beauty wherever I go. In my eye, it is the only way to truly enjoy every day, and yet in today’s society we never consider the artistic value and appreciation for beauty. Why is this? What is even considered beautiful? And can the eye of the beholder be trained?
Beauty or Aesthetic?
When on the subject on beauty, aesthetics and art certain linguistic difficulties arise that make it difficult to come to a common understanding. It is simply so hard to truly describe beauty!
For example, beauty is often used synonymously with aesthetics – where a highly symmetrical face is described as beauty. Yet an aesthetically ‘ugly’ face can still be a beautiful piece of art. In fact, I’d dare say a hint of asymmetry or original, unique marks are often the spark that ignites the perception of beauty while dialing down on the more objectively measurable aesthetics.
So let me start this article by – to the best of my ability – attempting to describe what I mean with beauty..
A Broken Prism of Reality
Aesthetics are only the surface tension of a deeper pond. It is outer beauty, merely a signal for the world that there might just be beauty under the surface. An aesthetically pleasing subject will turn heads and attract and command attention from an observer. It has a pulling energy.
Yet where this outer beauty attracts..true inner beauty captivates and illuminates. It is the difference between something absorbing light as opposed to a prism sharing it’s energy by reflecting and beaming out into the world – sharing the luminosity with everyone, creating a spectacle of colors and shapes across all nearby surfaces.
Although initially there is often an aesthetic component (either positive or negative) that attracts your initial attention, there is always a sense of complexity, asymmetry and flaw required for true beauty. I mean this in the whole sense – a ‘the-glass-is-always-full kind of perspective‘.
I can watch a simple tree for hours and appreciate the beauty of it, where all the individual leaves and imperfections are intertwining and connecting and dancing in the wind while little insects, birds and pieces of dust flutter around the periphery in an composite entanglement of reality.
- The way a beam of light dances across the walls of your hallway.
- The way an unexpected note in a jazz piece surprises your ear and invokes in you a sense of joy and discovery.
- The way the birds in the park interact and seduce each-other with symphonies of birth-song.
- The gentle, all-encompassing glow of a full moon crowning a star-studded sky.
- And perhaps the ultimate expression of beauty for any man; a woman, lovingly opening her soul before you.
What matters for me is that true beauty invokes a deep rumble of emotion within your core. Your heart breaks a little, and you are compelled to open up your spirit to drink it in fully – in the process even letting go of inhibitions your rational mind may be invoking on you. True beauty stops you in your tracks and you are forced to relinquish control over yourself to experience it. It hits you mercilessly in your core, even though you cannot rationally explain the captivation and momentary obsession.
Real beauty fights with our rational mind and can drive us to despair if we choose to fight it. It offers us a glimpse of an eternal glory that we would like to impossibly stretch out across infinity before we are whisked away from it through the temporal dimension. In fact art is – in my mind – nothing other than an attempt to capture this temporary beauty into a permanent and inevitably inadequate imitation.
By the way I am describing this, there is clearly an overlap between true beauty and love. I’d go as far as to suggest that beauty cannot even be found in the first place without looking at the world with loving, accepting eyes. Is beauty, then, not simply a temporary glimpse of love in the current moment?
Leonardo Da Vinci
All human beings are irresistibly drawn to beauty. What a waste that we – as a western society – has relinquished our appreciation for beauty and discontinued our study of aesthetics! Imagine if every modern engineer would look at the world with the eyes of a Leonardo Da Vinci. Every single one of them would be able to create a new phenomenon like the Iphone!
And how would the appreciation of beauty impact our mental health? Would it not do away with many forms of depression and sadness, and replace it with gratuitous gratitude?
In our quest for rationality and enlightenment we have replaced our natural, emotional attraction to beauty with a cold evidence-based search for rules. We have in effect imprisoned our soul inside our mind – ever finding new reasons why something cannot be or cannot continue. We must find balance and return to the reverence of both expansive knowledge and the pursuit of beauty – like the civilizations of old before us.
The Eye of the Beholder
I don’t believe in ‘beauty lies in the eye of the beholder’. Beauty is either there or not. However, it is true that not every eye has the skill to perceive beauty until it has experienced or shown how to appreciate the complexity of it. That’s why I believe the appreciation of beauty is something that needs practice and training.
I’d like to challenge every one of you – the readers – to take some time – say an hour – for yourself and simply explore, find, experience and enjoy beauty fully every single day.
Find something. Anything! And simply observe and explore it until you feel emotion and gratitude for that something to be in your life. Don’t let your life slip into a grey, featureless blob of mediocrity and actively let beauty into your daily life. Once you have trained your eye to look for beauty, you shall find it everywhere and all the time – and your life will so much better for it.
A great man called Edward Abbey once wrote:
“There are some places so beautiful they can make a grown man break down and weep.”
Find these places. Explore and weep.