I’ve been thinking about beauty lately.
A couple of years ago, I decided that I wasn’t going to bring anything into my house that wasn’t aesthetically beautiful. Following that “A thing of beauty is a joy forever” model, I determined that if an object can be beautiful, why choose the ugly one over a beautiful one for the sake of a few dollars? So far this has worked out very well with objects, but an obsession with beauty poses some complications when dealing with real people.
We have such a love/hate turmoil over the concept of beauty. Most of us equate beauty with attractiveness. Attractiveness seems to be a ephemeral thing, yet studies say it can be measured on an attractiveness scale that relies on symmetry . Other studies suggest the key to beauty is being absolutely average (a fascinating phenomenon called koinophilia that I will explore in another blog entry). I’m not sure that attractiveness is truly synonymous with beauty.
Attractiveness suggests a drawing in of others. To attract is to pull others to you, and our society has made it easy to become attractive. Miracles are promised by this cream or that potion. Surgeons are ready and more than willing to prey on the desire of people to lose their uniqueness, to be so average that they become pretty. Bigger breasts, flatter tummies, straighter noses, and firmer chins are all for sale. Everyone looks like everyone else and theoretically people are being drawn to each other like bees to flowers.
The wonder of beauty is that it has an air of the unattainable. It is distant. Physical beauty is to be worshipped and admired, not to be possessed. It’s not about drawing in; it’s about standing apart. In people attractiveness exists briefly and then fades as sexual virility is lost to age. It is temporal. But there is a beauty in form and movement which reveals a special grace beyond time. In an elegant elder, grace shows in a spirit of beauty that is completely indefinable. There is nothing symmetrical about it. It is far from average. It is a beauty that grabs you and leaves your heart glowing in your chest. That’s real beauty. It is unique, creative, and eternal.
True beauty is grace.
© Shawn Bird 2010