The Eye of the Beholder?

I’ve recently been involved with some friends in an e-mail discussion about eclipses, bears, and space stations. Pretty broad range of topics there, but the discussion mostly centered on what excites us, what inspires us. As the e-mails rattled around in my head, I thought about how beauty inspires us and, more fundamentally, how we define beauty in objects of art in the first place.

Of course, beauty is in the eye of the beholder, right? How many times have you heard that one? Hundreds? Thousands? I thought about that phrase a lot in the wake of the discussion with my friends. It is a nice phrase to use when you want to agree to disagree with someone about whether or not something is beautiful. The exchanges typically go something like this. Person A says, “I think that picture is beautiful.” Person B replies, “I disagree. I don’t think it is beautiful.” Person A concludes, “Well, beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

But, what if this isn’t true? What if beauty is not in the eye of the beholder? Instead, what if beauty is an intrinsic property of objects? Put another way, what if all objects are beautiful, regardless of what someone thinks about them or judges them to be? Wouldn’t that be cool?

Later, I went for a run to let the ideas ruminate a bit more. Ultimately, I concluded that all objects are beautiful. Here is my logic. While I might think that something is beautiful, who am I to demand that you agree? Who am I to pass my judgement onto your concept of beauty? Wouldn’t it be easier if we just agree up front that all objects have beauty? Then, we can spend our time seeking out that beauty. The more we seek, the more we understand something, and the easier it is to find the beauty in it. Right? My logic may have some flaws, but do you see where I’m going with this? Instead of rejecting the beauty in an object by saying “it isn’t beautiful,” one would say, “I don’t know enough about this object to understand the beauty in it.” You might look at it as the glass is half full interpretation of beauty. I like it!

To illustrate my contention that beauty is an intrinsic quality of all objects, take a look at the abstract image I’ve included here. This is a continuation of my studies on abstract images. After my run, I stepped into the men’s room at the park where I parked my truck. As I was leaving the restroom, I saw this image on the floor. I don’t know what it is, and I don’t even care. But, I can see the beauty in it. The warm tones, the shadows, the textures, all created by the delicate light diffusing through the overhead skylight in the men’s room. This type of image may not appeal to you. That is fine. But I think you see my point: beauty even exists in disgusting places like the floor of the men’s room.

OK, now go out and find some beauty of your own!

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