What is beauty?

It's not exactly an original question, but it's one that has been pondered and written about for hundreds of years. And of course, like everything else, I have my own opinion on it.
In the modern world there are really two definitions of beauty.
The first is what I believe to be the true definition: "Beauty is a characteristic of a person, place, object or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure, meaning or satisfaction." beauty is something that brings pleasure, usually to the eyes, but also to the ears, and in rare occasions to the nose. Ultimately the perfection of beauty is in God. (Psalm 50:1-2)
The second, and often more interesting, finds its origin in the phrase "beauty is in the eye of the beholder". This can be a variety of things, the first that comes to mind is romantic attraction. A lover often believes that there is no one more "beautiful" (In complexion, or in spirit) than their Beloved. A more accurate phrase, then, might be "Attraction is in the eye of the beholder" but even that is faulty. Because it is evident that peoples ideas of what is beautiful or appealing differ greatly. This is where this second definition fails. We know that the perfection of beauty is in Christ, therefore isn't there some standard for what is beautiful? Yes there is. But in everything there must be things that will never be explained. Unless we accept this one paradox we will get nowhere on the subject of beauty. So, accepting what we must we'll continue.
Since we understand that peoples views of what is beautiful differ the obvious question is why? What makes people enjoy different things? There are several reasons.
1. Personality. Someone with a quiet continence is less likely to think a Rock song with great lyrics to be beautiful, because the form clashes with their personality, than perhaps a more bubbly or "hardcore" person who might find the song greatly pleasing.
2. Experiences. This really ties back to personality, experiences are what shape our personalities. Someone who has experienced the hardship of poverty for example would would find Gods blessings of prosperity more beautiful than a King who was born into wealth and stayed there his entire life.
3. Association. Someone may find something beautiful, or vise versa based on what they associate it with. This is especially true of music. If a painting was first seen during a depressed time of your life, and then you see it several years later it is probable that you will find it displeasing, if not downright revolting. If you were in a state of extreme happiness when you hear a song for the very first time it is more than likely that you'll love the song for life.
So why is the second definition defective? If it's not beauty than what is it? Simple: pleasure. Enjoyment and beauty are not synonymous. Beauty is Christ, pleasure is self. The closer you are to Christ, the closer you are to understanding the true meaning of beauty.

-J. S.


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