Updated: Oct 1, 2020
It's time, finally, to dig into the meaning and importance of beauty in our lives! In this episode, the first of three parts, Mr. B explores in some depth the quality of beauty. What makes something, anything, a thing of beauty? Why does beauty exist? What purpose does beauty serve ... in our own lives and in the life of society? All of this will lead to a discussion, which begins in this episode, of what attracts Mr. B, of what, exactly, Mr. B finds in his life to be most beautiful? Tune in,... and explore the nature and function of beauty with me, Mr. B!.
Thomas Aquinas ... Beauty is "that which pleases when seen."
John-Mark L. Miravalle...
"[B]eauty draws a person toward immaterial truth and goodness.... "[T]ruth, goodness, and beauty are all intrinsically equivalent -- each is coextensive with the others. But beauty is what ignites in us the passions, the desire for what is good and true, because it is presented in sense images that provoke within us such strong emotional reactions. So beauty makes us long for higher things, which motivates us to pursue higher things, which leads to our ultimate fulfillment."
"Throughout the philosophical tradition, from antiquity through the Middle Ages, order is considered a basic feature of the beautiful. Order is often described as that which has a certain measurement or proportionality. For Plato, all the arts are concerned with measurement, with what is due, or with what is according to standards. Aristotle lists order, symmetry, and definiteness as the key aspects of beauty.
St. Augustine is particularly insistent ... on regularity and adherence to numeric principle. In one work, he states, 'From this stage, reason advanced to the province of the eyes. And scanning the earth and the heavens, it realized that nothing pleased it but beauty; and in beauty, design; and in design, dimensions; and in dimensions, number.'
Earlier in the same work, [De Ordine], he illustrates the orderly beauty of symmetry by contrasting it with an architectural defect: "Wherefore, considering carefully the parts of this very building, we cannot but be displeased because we see one doorway towards the side and another situated almost, but not exactly, in the middle. In things constructed, a proportion of parts that is faulty, without any compelling necessity, unquestionably seems to inflict, as it were, a kind of injury upon one's gaze....'"
"The notion of 'surprise' (or 'wonder,' 'astonishment,' amazement,' or 'marvel') is very difficult to capture. Let's try this simple definition: surprise is the mind's attentive response to what it does not find obvious. Based on that definition, we can say that there are two ways in which something can be surprising."
"First, something can be subjectively surprising. In this sense, we're surprised whenever something exceeds our personal comprehension or expectations. So, for instance, someone may be surprised by the following description of one trillion: 'If you initialed one dollar bill a second, you would make $1,000 every 17 minutes. After 12 days of non-stop effort you would acquire your first million. Thus, it would take you 120 days to accumulate $10 million, and 1,200 days -- something over three years -- to reach $100 million. After 31.7 years you would become a billionaire. But not until 31,709.8 years elapsed would you count your trillionth dollar bill.'"
"Something can also be objectively surprising, however. Something is surprising in itself when it doesn't have to be the way it is. If something is different than it might have been, then the way it is isn't obvious." Nature is ... surprising in itself because nature doesn't have to be the way it is. We can imagine nature being differently constructed. There's nothing obvious about gravity -- why shouldn't all objects repel instead of attracting? There's nothing obvious about grass -- why should it be green instead of red? And, most importantly, there's nothing obvious about the fact that it exists at all. It doesn't have to be the way it is...."
"Hey, uhn. It's very strange, where you come from," describing the dominant culture of North America.
"Well, it seems to me that where you come from, everybody wakes up every day expecting to live."
"... How might people in some other village or town rise up each morning? What does being alive mean to them? It isn't likely that they wake up every day expecting to die. They likely want to live at least as much as we do, and they want this for each other too. Experience has taught them not that life is cruel, random, arbitrary, unjust. Experience has taught them that life is unlikely, everything considered. Waking up each day, and having your children do so, is not written in the stars, not an entitlement, far from inevitable. It is not even the fair trade meritocratic consequence of being careful and living right."
"Waking up each day is a gift. It is a gift that is not reward for playing by the rules. It is a gift from the Gods, giving each living person the capacity not just to go on, but to go on as if he or she has been gifted, to go on in gratitude and wonder that all the things of the world that keep them alive have continued while they slept. Wonder, awe, and a feeling of being on the receiving end for now of something mysteriously good. These are antidotes to depression...."
"Even amidst chaos and disorder, something in the human mind continues still to seek beauty. From our very first moments in the world we seem to be on a quest for beauty. The first thing the new infant sees is the human face. That sighting affects us deeply; for instinctively we seek shelter, confirmation and belonging in the face of the mother. No other subsequent image in the world will ever rival the significance of the face. The lives of those we know, need and love all dwell behind faces. We are inevitably drawn to the beauty of the face for it is there that we had our first inkling of beauty."
"In its form, presence and balance of left and right, the face offers the first intimation of the symmetry and order that lies at the heart of beauty. Without that hidden order and rhythm of pattern, there could be no beauty. Nature is full of hidden geometry and harmony, as is the human mind; and the creations of the mind that awaken and recreate the sense of pattern and order tend to awaken or unveil beauty. Symmetry satisfies us and coheres with our need for meaning and shelter in the world. Indeed, the notion of symmetry is central to the beauty of mathematics and science. It seems that physicists in choosing between different theories often feel that the more symmetrical one, generally, is the more beautiful and the truer."
"Science tells us that the more symmetrical a face is, the more beautiful it is. Though order is necessary for beauty, the interesting thing is that a face that is not overburdened by structural perfection can still be very beautiful. More often than not it is the inner beauty of heart and mind that illuminates the face. A smile can completely transform a face. Ultimately, it is the soul that makes the face beautiful. Each face is its own landscape and is quietly vibrant with the invisible textures of memory, story, dream, need, want and gift that make up the beauty of the individual life. This is also the grace that love brings into one's life. As the soul can render the face luminous so too can love turn up the hidden light within a person's life. Love changes the way we see ourselves and others. We feel beautiful when we are loved, and to evoke an awareness of beauty in another is to give them a precious gift they will never lose. When we say from our heart to someone: 'You are beautiful,' it is more than a statement or platitude, it is a recognition and invocation of the dignity, grandeur and grace of their spirit. There is something in the nature of beauty that goes beyond personality, good looks, image and fashion. When we affirm another's beauty, we affirm something that cannot be owned or drawn into the grid of small-mindedness or emotional need. There is profound nobility in beauty that can elevate a life, bring it into harmony with the artistry of its eternal source and destination."
"Beauty is the harvest of presence, the evanescent moment of seeing or hearing on the outside what already lives far inside us; the eyes, the ears or the imagination suddenly become a bridge between the here and the there, between then and now, between the inside and the outside; beauty is the conversation between what we think is happening outside in the world and what is just about to occur far inside us."