Wednesday, August 15, 2007
Beauty, Part Three
As I was pedaling along through the dunes with jc, snapping shots of wildflowers, I thought, "Beauty is everywhere." Then I remembered my Plato: true beauty is an ideal. Is Plato right? Does seeing beauty in a flower make me blind to true beauty? Immediately the Daodejing came to mind: beauty creates ugliness. Is Lao Tsu right? By making one thing beautiful, do I cheapen other things? I could have added quotes from the Bible, which reminds us more than once that true beauty is not the outward appearance, but what comes from the heart. That's much more obvious than the former two ideas.
So what is it that I consider to be beautiful?
I started the thought with objects in nature. Flowers, trees, streams, lakes, the ocean, birds, little spotted fawns. A sunny day with a cooling breeze and a bright blue sky dotted with puffy clouds. A rainy day with a gray sky close enough to touch and a gentle patter on the roof. The human form, most especially of a lover.
Things made by man seem paler in comparison, but still lovely. The architectural lines of a stately mansion or a humble bungalow. An inspired painting or sculpture. A plate of sashimi prepared and garnished by an expert hand. Flowing calligraphy. Music.
The answer will be different for each of us though. Every reader will find an item on my list that leaves them cold, if not repulses them. It makes Plato right, doesn't it? These things only serve to awaken the idea of beauty already in my consciousness. The objects that I assign the idea to are determined by external influences that have taught me what to consider beautiful.
The Daodejing is not so simple to process. XBFRN tries to explain it to me and I envy his grasp of it. I've graduated from the idea that everything falls in one of two categories to the idea that everything falls somewhere on a continuum. So I can grasp the idea of everything from gorgeous, beautiful, lovely, pretty and cute down to plain, bland, unpleasant, ugly and repulsive. When I see one thing as beautiful, other things become ugly. I won't quite get it today.