What is beauty?
The other day a good friend of mine, who had just bought some clothes in the sales, asked myself and a mate what we thought of her new dress. My mate said it was beautiful, and he was right in many respects; it really was a very visually appealing piece of attire.
But just at the moment I asked myself a question I’d never really asked myself before - what actually is beauty? Is it something we derive visual pleasure from, something that is appealing to our senses? Or is beauty derived from what something symbolises to us, from what it represents?
In order to explore the question deeper, I have taken a quote from Gandhi and adapted it for the intellectual framework of anyone living in a modern western society. The question his thinking poses pivots around the following:
Can there be any beauty in the finest cloth that causes pain and suffering through
Can there be any taste in the most extravagant meal that destroys the fertility of our soil and pollutes our air and rivers?
Can there be any glamour in the sexiest make-up that has been cruelly tested on the most innocent and defenceless animals?
Can there be any style in the finest car that depends on the hundreds of thousands of deaths that inevitably occur through the wars that are required to fuel it.
Can there by any pleasure from the most melodic of sounds that comes to you from a music system that requires modern industrialisation and mass production, and the ravages that go with it, in order to exist?
Can there be any class in the finest piece of furniture that has come from the evaporating rainforests of Brazil?
Can there be any freedom of choice in our purchases when our freedom is gained by the caging of others?
Can there be any attraction to the most physically appealing person who is so immature and self absorbed that they put their own minor interests ahead of the most fundamental needs of other human beings and animals?
Maybe there can be. Or maybe we should stop seeing beauty in how we perceive it with our most shallow of senses, and instead see beauty in what something represents to us.
A non-dyed shirt made from natural materials by a local tailor. A dish of organic and local root vegetables. An untouched face in all it’s natural beauty, however unconventional. A cyclist as she struggles uphill, against the wind and against the rain. The sound of an acoustic instrument at the side of a campfire. A chair made by a green woodworker that took three days to make. A mushroom found in the woods. Someone who cares for the billions of suffering humans and animals more than the shade or her eyeliner or the size of his bicep.
The look on a loved ones face as She stands beside you in your hour of need. That is what I call Beauty.
Comment on this Post:
Fergus comments ...
Beauty is a wild leaf curd meal made using a bicycle adapted to manually operate a liquidizer! A book on leaf curd making will be wending its way to you soon. Resistance is futile. You will become as obsessed with leaf curd as I am!
Treavor comments ...
Near everything you write here rings truth to us through and through.
It's funny and sometimes frustrating how you can explain these things to some people, and after your done explaining it all they will completely agree with you and think how screwed up things in the world are. Afterwards they will immediately take their car, go to the mall and pick up 10-15 unnecessary things, pick up some fast food on the way back home, then sit on the couch and watch some tv shows between commercials.
Giving and spreading the information is one thing, but making it click....now there lies a true challenge.
Mark Boyle comments ...
Yeah I agree, effecting real change is the challenge. I take heart from the fact though that seven years ago I was doing everything that I am trying to now change.
The first step of effecting change is education. Habits are hard to break, and a lot of habits have become addictions for some people. I studied marketing ashamedly and one thing I learned from that is that you often need to hit a potential customer five times before they actually switch to your brand. The same applies to breaking negative habits, except it takes much more.
It does feel like things are changing, and they probably aren't changing fast enough. But education and awareness raising is the essential first step. No one is going to change their ways overnight. I know that because it took me years. I don't ever expect to see the fruits of my labour. It may take a generation. All I know is that I must keep doing it until the day I die to the best of my ability, and what will be will be.
Don't ever think what you do doesn't effect change. It's impossible for it not to. You just can't see the results yet. It's all part of the process, as frustrating as that can be.
much respect and love
Phil Jackson comments ...
Beauty begets beauty. What is at work on the freeconomy gets to the heart of beauty and the gift economy. We've pointed to beauty in sacrifice, beauty freely given, beauty that demands a response. Beauty is commonly spoken in the same breath as truth and goodness, a trinity of virtues, which have been discarded in exchange for expediency, argued against on the grounds of power motives implied in the word, and simply ignored as arbitrary. A few weeks ago I was visited by a double rainbow, breathtaking in its clarity, and later by a dozen shooting stars. There was beauty and it was completely free.
I love what you do.
Freida Mai comments ...
You are Beautiful Seer shu my friend x
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