Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Why is Beauty so hard to define?

On Beauty is formally defined as:  "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)." 

Wait just a cotton-pickin' minute.  That tells me NOTHING.  It says there is this 'quality', and it tells me how people tend to respond to it, and goes on to give me some broad-brush hints as to the vehicles that seem to transmit beauty....but, really, it says not a peep about what this apparently mysterious 'quality' is.  If you google 'true beauty' you get thousands of hits telling you everything from where to get your hair done....not much use to those of us who don't have some vague allusions to properties of the soul and 'inner beauty'.  Nobody seems willing to take a stab at nailing down this ubiquitous yet ill-defined 'je ne sais quoi'.  

Perhaps that is the result of living in a basically secular culture that isolates all the qualities we perceive as being 'spiritual' into a separate compartment and generally lumps them together under the umbrella of 'religion'.  But, for those of us who feel moved by Spirit, and yet do not feel drawn by any particular religion....Beauty--yes, with a capital 'B'-- is one of the only experiences in our lives that seems to be promising something more than just daily living as a chore, fraught with demands, laden with mundanity and boredom.  It also doesn't help that we live in a material-centric culture in which beauty--with a small 'b'--has been hijacked to sell, uh, well, damn near everything....hardly can think of a product or service that it has NOT been used to hawk. The boundaries of good taste, any sense of respect or propriety need not apply.  If putting a glossy woman in sexy clothes together with  fill in the blank, can sell it, then so be it. 

We live our entire lives so thoroughly marinated in a shallow hologram of beauty, that the real deal seems like some distant and hazy dream.  Every so often, most, but not all people, have a pure experience of Beauty, and it touches them to their core, if they allow it to do so.  Such an experience can even be so powerful as to be a life-changing moment for a person.  But, most of us are so bombarded with sleek, sleazy, and plastic representations of beauty that we have become numb....too numb perhaps to recognize the value and Truth of the real quality when it does appear, often only fleetingly.

Genuine Beauty (I hesitate to use the expression 'True Beauty', lest it sound too much like 'the impressive clergyman' in Princess Bride, "....Twoo Wov") is not only 'real', and hidden in plain sight, it also has a deeper meaning that it carries.  For the mystic, it is palpable proof of a Divine Being, a Higher Power, the Beloved, a Creator, the One.  Beauty has an almost astonishing ability to by-pass the discursive mind....aka 'the chatterbox', or 'yadda, yadda'....which carries on an incessant and inane discussion of our perceived reality.  This 'crazy monkey' aspect of our being--referred to by some mystics as 'mind-mesh'--is full of judgment, opinions as to acceptability or subjective quality, and is almost never content to simply observe and accept 'what is'. It pretty much steps all over everything we experience....and the results are grossly more problematic than they are beneficial.

Beauty--in a normal person--goes straight to the Heart and carries a powerful emotional impact as it does so. This is an instantaneous recognition and acceptance that needs no processing ....KAPOW!!!! It happens just that fast, and with enough power to bring tears to our eyes and an expansive feeling to our chest.  The 'why' and the 'wherefore' of this process will NEVER be understood by science....simply because it is not something that the intellect has the tools to understand.  Beauty lies in the province of the awakened Heart....not the intellect.  For the same reason that western hard science still doesn't fully accept things like homeopathy, accupuncture, the placebo effect, and pranha, chi, ki or the entire idea of a Life will not and cannot accept that Beauty is a form of energy.  And it most certainly will never accept that this energy has its origins in The Force. 

Perhaps you've noted that I have thus far avoided using the 'G-word'.  Ayuh.  That is because the term 'God' has been so twisted, purloined, misapplied and generally loaded down with religious baggage, that it no longer carries a universally understood meaning.  People who follow different religious paths have this tendency to make it their own, and, sadly, to feel that while they have an avenue leading directly to God, most others do not, and are even condemned forever because they just can't accept the only 'right' path.....their own, of course.  Most of the problems that humanity is struggling with in these times stem from this form of myopia. 

Beauty, however, is a common language that is able to transcend all boundaries real and imposed.  It speaks fluently to any person whose Heart is open to it...and the message is always the same: "This is the feeling of Love".   It is so pleasing, so comforting, so consoling, that it serves as a call to embrace what is behind it.  And, above any and all religions, that feeling, that calling is to become a person who seeks, supports and tries their best to foster Love in the world around them, in their dealings with others, in their approach to the planet we inhabit, in their tolerance for all other beings...of any species or kingdom.

This is the origin of the expression: "Beauty is Truth".   And, whether it be an artist who eschews it because he or she cannot get down out of their intellect long enough to serve it....or a religious zealot who claims to serve a God who would have him/her kill all others who do not believe as they do.....any person who embraces the vices of isolation, elitism, exclusivity and false just flying in the face of the one single Truth that conveys its Essence in the blink of an eye...beyond all doubt, without any reservation: Beauty.

photo by: Samuel J. Sayen

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