The Merriam-Webster Dictionary says:
(Beauty is) the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.
Makes sense, especially with the “pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit,” part. Essentially, anything or anyone can be considered beautiful, as long as it/they gives pleasure to the senses (physical,) the mind (cognitive,) or the spirit (spiritual – or emotive?)
And yet, in our modern materialistic society, beauty is often understood as something that provides (only) pleasure. Period.
When I say “modern materialistic society,” I make the same noises that authors have made through centuries, because when we compare the contemporary to the past, however recent the past might be, we begin to assume that we are sliding down a moral incline with no end in sight. It isn’t true. In a way, it’s proximity bias, but I diverge.
As you grow up, go past your thirties and forties, and as you begin to look past the physical evidences of beauty, you begin to see beauty in things that you never found beautiful nor appreciated a decade ago or two.
Pleasures of the Senses:
The flowers growing on the roadside fringed with the pearly drops of rain start tugging at your heartstrings, enough to make you stop and appreciate their beauty. The pleasure moves from the senses into the mind and heart. I think it’s the mind that quietly calculates the growing preciousness of each moment of life that remains with you, and makes you “feel” more than you did before.
Pleasures of the Mind:
The wrinkles on the leathery skin of an old face jump over the fences of sensory pleasure and rush into you mind, making you see how beautifully they animate when a smile illuminates that face. Those wrinkle now form new connections in your mind, making you see experiences where earlier in your youth, you saw an ugly old man…or a woman. You now experience beauty through your mind.
Pleasures of the Heart:
And then there’s love. Love tints your personal definition of beauty by moving your spirit. As a young man or woman, you wouldn’t find aged men and women beautiful – but the faces of your parent and grandparent faces will look beautiful to you forever.
So you see, our interpretation of beauty remains a mystery.
The question that this makes me ask is:
What is beauty for you? Can you find beauty in ruins, in age, in pain, in separation, in anger, in sorrow? What is it that negates the negativity in all these and makes them beautiful?