Musings Episode 2: Beauty

Beauty – noun.

1. the quality present in a thing or person that gives intense pleasure or deep satisfaction to the mind, whether arising from sensory manifestations (as shape, color, sound, etc.), a meaningful design or pattern, or something else (as a personality in which high spiritual qualities are manifest)

-Dictionary.com, 8/15/2017

We often hear of beauty being described as some sort of oppression mechanism produced by society. While this is sometimes true, more often than we’d like, I would like to step away from that for a moment.

Beauty is beautiful because it is subjective. The things we find beautiful are informed by who we are, who we’ve been, and who we will become. It is informed by things we have already found beautiful.

We know beauty when we see it because it does something to us. It makes us laugh, makes us cry, gives us that fluttery feeling in our chests as our hearts swell with the physical recognition of it. It calms us, empowers us, arouses us, heals us.

I went to high school with a young woman who had jet black hair and celery green eyes. She had perfect freckles across a perfect nose. Her voice was neither too deep nor too high. Yet, when she spoke, I forgot to notice these things about her because she always made me feel as though I myself possessed equally mesmerizing traits. I like to think that the beauty of her was neither her outside nor her inside, but rather the marriage of the two. Truth be told, I went to school with many young women who were like this.

I have also found beauty that existed outside of anything physical. The tenderness of a mother introducing her newborn child, pride dripping from every syllable. Or, in art. Art that speaks to you, maybe literally. To tell a story and evoke emotion. To leave you contemplating experiences that have allowed you to relate to it.

Why is it that we have such a complicated relationship with acknowledging beauty? Why is it that, when some pseudo-intellectual wants to undermine your virtuosity, they call you shallow? As though acknowledging and discussing beauty in its variant states somehow makes you a one-dimensional person? While it certainly is possible to care too much about beauty, how does this make it different from anything else a person can possess? People too focused on intellect can come across as pretentious. People too focused on success can come across as snobbish.

I do find people beautiful, physically or otherwise. I also find words beautiful. I find places, natural and man-made, beautiful. Unless a person specifically said to me, through words or actions, “I value a narrow definition of physical beauty to the detriment of everything else a person can possess”, I would not consider them shallow.

Shallow. As though spurning one of the few gifts we undeniably possess as humans (the ability to perceive and enjoy subjective beauty, not beauty itself) somehow makes you deep.

Huh.

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