J O U R N A L / B L O G


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Relevance: [some rough thoughts on beauty as a surprise]

I believe that everything holds an equally deep amount of beauty. Beauty is limited only by our methods of considering. But if everything is beautiful, what does it matter? In some ways, when I say everything is beautiful what I am saying is that everything is important aesthetically. Certainly there are measures of attractiveness, proportion, anatomy, and closeness to mathematical form, and these could all be considered from an aesthetic perspective and support a method of aesthetic judgment (perhaps of taste, or perhaps measuring against an ideal), but the fundamental question of “Is it worth considering aesthetically?” is always “Yes”, when referring to any space-time physical arrangement. Now to give an example of why I believe this, that the simplest imaginable forms have a beauty worth considering, I would have to take recourse theoretical arrangements (imagine two atoms orbiting each other—aren’t they beautiful?). But the key to remember is that while theoretical and analytical standards and ideas help us to appreciate beauty, the reason we are considering it and the reason it is worth considering is that it is a specific experience, not a logical possibility. It is an experience of the world looking upwards, away from ourselves.

Aesthetic beauty is about the mind opening itself with neutrality to the effects of the senses. In this mode we do not stop feeling, but we restrain ourselves long enough to let standards of judgment pass through us rather than stick as we attempt to discern which standard is appropriate. Indeed I find feeling to be heightened when I loose control of standards and realize that what is before me is totally unique.

The aesthetic appreciation of reality in the sense that I would validate as recognition of what is truly beautiful—everything—naturally distracts from not only our political endeavors but our other rational and aesthetic interests as well. That ‘reality is important’ we generally take for granted. We don’t just stop caring or forget how to care about our lives in the basic sense of ‘should I stop breathing now?’ But on the other hand we don’t often take pause to consider what the form of reality around us really is that is so obviously worth continuing into. We are too often strung along by beliefs and intentions formed previously to remember to re-open ourselves in an honest response to our senses. Our senses become tools for confirmation rather than absorption. It doesn’t matter that there is dust on the monitor if it’s not obscuring the screen, or a fleck of dried milk on the keyboard. Of course, beauty is not about those details mattering in a political sense; it is about those details mattering in the aesthetic sense that they simply exist. We all too often are so busy reacting to the details that do warrant a political response that we totally ignore the details that do not warrant a political response.

Stopping and smelling the roses is not really about stopping and smelling the roses. After all, we expect to receive a refreshing and enjoyable smell in that pursuit— and there is little more contemptible to me than beauty being twisted into a satisfaction of expectations. If our environments becomes a measure of usefulness towards our goals, even if our goals are aesthetic (build a space-ship to see the beauty of space, extend humanity or my own life’s duration so it can experience the beauty of the universe), we have lost the purpose in our lives because we are no longer receptive to the most fundamental aesthetic of all— that which is specifically real.

The revelation of beauty is a kind of being surprised. However, our standards and models of how we expect the world to look and be can be effective and idiosyncratic... so if we are not trying we may never find ourselves surprised against our wills or may find it more difficult in familiar locales. This is where focus comes in handy, and through a more selective attention we can shift scales, and I’m often shocked at how surprising everything becomes once I’ve re-oriented my attention and ridden myself of expectations. I’ve found this experience of the flood of un-expected detail so immensely satisfying in my exploration of life that I’d even say our true understanding of beauty can only be enhanced by a collision with the un-expected and unknown. This is not to decry recourse to a platonic sort of ideal of beauty in any capacity, those ideals are forms that can give us more ways in which to consider everything new that we sense and enhance our familiarity with objects, and indeed objects can enhance our familiarity with ordered forms... allowing us to change the way we idealize, focus, and appreciate in an interactive fashion.
If a homeless person vomits in the rose-bush before you stop to smell it, and you have no idea until you lean in real close, you're in for a much greater opportunity. You have a chance to let go of instinctive response to the more strictly (and usually unnecessarily prejudiced) categorized phenomenon of barf. Even though reactions of disgust or aversion are nearly impossible to diminish entirely they can become like exciting gateways into a kind of beauty that is often more rewarding in its difficulty.

1 comment:

  1. Yup. How is it possible to break past the minds insistence on predictable meaning.... to what we actually experience in the moment. There needs to be an ability to sit still while the minds voice runs on....and THEN ....perception. That great Koan, "Who Hears?" works just as well for,"Who Sees?".
    PS Run spell check on the last paragraph
    R. Ross