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Monday, July 11, 2011

What is beauty?

Back in May I read a book called The Beautiful: An Introduction to Psychological Aesthetics by Vernon Lee and his definition of beautiful fascinated me. Says he, "[Beauty is] not inasmuch existing in certain objects and processes, but rather as calling forth (and being called forth by) a particular group of mental activities and habits. What are the peculiarities of our thinking and feeling when in the presence of a thing to which we apply [the adjective of beautiful]?"

So I ask you to contemplate for a moment, what do you consider beautiful? And why? When is the last time you consciously sought after the experience of those peculiarities of thinking and feeling when in the presence of a beautiful thing?

This evening, Zak and I went for a bike ride on top of a cliff overlooking the entire city of St. George.  It was the golden hour, and rays were scattered in patches over the city and farmland as far as the eye could see.  To top it off, a glorious rainbow stretched over the entire eastern view, passing over a rock formation miles and miles away, appropriately named "Rainbow Ridge."  I thought about Lee's book in this moment, and how he described the thought processes of three theoretical spectators witnessing a beautiful scene.  The entrepreneurial spectator thought of the transportation and lodging that could be established here to make a profit. The scientific spectator imagined the processes that occurred through millions and millions of years of sedimentation and uplift to make this scene.  And the third spectator simply thought, "Oh the beautiful way that russet and lilac complement each other!  How I smile seeing those cerulean skies!"  In other words, the entrepreneur was living in the future, the scientist was living in the past, but the aesthetician was living in the present and recognizing that moment's gift to him.

It is only when we live in the present that we live fully.


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