Dabar [theme]

He shall cover thee with His feathers, and under His wings shalt thou find refuge: His truth is a shield and buckler
Psalms 91:4

Be it ours,when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of His wings. C.H. Spugeon

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Beauty Part 1

Do you want to live a beautiful life?

So what kind of life is beautiful? What is your aesthetic?

What is true? What is good? What is beautiful?--

The most famous aphorism often misquoted is , "Beauty is in the eye of the beholder." ~Plato
"Judgments of beauty require an aesthetic, some criterion which separates the ugly from the beautiful. If you want to live a beautiful life you need some way of defining beauty."
The claim by Anthony Ashley Cooper, the 3rd Earl of Shaftesbury was that the beautiful IS the true, and vice versa. "As transcendentals grounded in the simplicity of God, truth and beauty must be one. This is von Balthasar's point in his theological aesthetics. Beauty is the forgotten transcendental."

Beauty is the property, quality or state of being "that which pleases merely by being perceived" (Aquinas) I believe the catch in the definition is in the perception. This is at times the catch in defining truth - it is in the perception. There could be an error in this comparison, whereas beauty is a result of perception and desire, truth, absolute by definition, by comparison does not suffer from that malady. Beauty will not stand alone, isolated from truth, however, truth stands by itself on its own merits. Beauty always points towards truth.

According to Immanuel Kant, beauty is objective and universal; thus certain things are beautiful to everyone. But judging something to be "beautiful" has three requirements: sensation must give rise to pleasure by engaging our capacities of reflective contemplation. Judgments of beauty are sensory, emotional and intellectual all at once.

Isaiah 53:2b, "...He (Jesus) has no form of comeliness; and when we see Him, there is no beauty that we should desire Him." It would seem in this description of Jesus there is a visible lack of attractiveness, there is a lack of the charismatic attributes which people would inherently desire to identify with and emulate. It may be further postulated that the lack of beauty would negate desire for emotional and intellectual engagement with Jesus.
Without 'beauty' Jesus is merely one of many, non-descript, disregarded, unknown members of humanity. 

"Aesthetic judgments seem often to be at least partly intellectual and interpretative. It is what a thing means or symbolizes for us that is often what we are judging." "Aesthetic judgments might be seen to be based on the senses, emotions, intellectual opinions, will, desires, culture, preferences, values, subconscious behavior, conscious decision, training, instinct, sociological institutions, or some complex combination of these." In other words 'beauty is in the eye of the beholder'. The variables implied in aesthetic discernment are too diverse and subjective to accurately define or anticipate what each individual will determine as beautiful. "In every man's heart there is a secret nerve that answers to the vibrations of beauty." - Christopher Mor

People will not find truth in the pursuit of beauty, truth however, is evident within the beauty we perceive. Debates about truth and beauty often draw upon our sense of awe and wonder at nature. "The most beautiful thing we can experience is the mysterious. It is the source of all true art and all science. He to whom this emotion is a stranger, who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe, is as good as dead: his eyes are closed."
~Albert Einstein ~
Beauty is all around us. "If you truly love Nature, you will find beauty everywhere." ~Vincent Van Gogh ~

Einstein also said, "My sense of God is my sense of wonder at the universe." The immensity, the grandeur, the intricacy, the overwhelming essence of the intelligent design of God's creation should hold us rapt in awe and wonder of the beauty which we behold. Afterall, we are seldom struck by awe at the ugly things of life. They do no bring about the same emotional response as does beauty. The existence of the 'ugly' in life contravene the seeming purposes of nature by their repulsive and disgusting appearance. It is easy to dismiss the 'ugly'; to excuse oneself from involvement with the 'ugly'; to categorize the 'ugly' as unnatural and in this reasoning the subjective judgement of the individual reigns. It is in the ugly that we see an example of how short-sighted and eroneous perceptions of truth are given weight and substance by their appeal to the purpose and aims of man; their appeal to the sense of what beauty should reveal as truth.

The most prevalent example is how women develop sexual and erotic capital. They take great pains to enhance their beauty including sex appeal, charm and social skills, physical fitness and liveliness, sexual competence and skills in self-presentation, such as make-up, hairstyles, clothing and further to develop the “soft skills” of charm, empathy, persuasion, deploying emotional intelligence and emotional labour. However the final element of erotic capital is unique to women: bearing children. The premise and foundational truth of a woman's 'beauty' is inherent in the nature of the truth that only the woman can bear children. When beauty is cuiltivated for beauty's sake it becomes an example of the distortion of truth. In Isaiah 3:24 God passes judgement on this mentality by saying, "Instead of a sweet smell there will be a stench; instead of a sash, a rope; instead of well-set hair, baldness; instead of a rich robe, a girding of sack-cloth; and branding instead of beauty."
We live in a capitalistic world and people exercise their options of exchanging capital for capital; beauty for beauty; truth for truth. The truth like beauty can be a facade, an illusory temptress seeking to waylay. Truth can be disguised in perception. God in speaking of Satan said, "You were the seal of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. ... You were perfect in your ways from the day you were created, till iniquity was found in you. ... Your heart was lifted up because of your beauty; you corrupted your wisdom for the sake of your splendour; ..."
“It is not beauty that endears, it's love that makes us see beauty” ~Tolstoy
"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched - they must be felt with the heart." ~Hellen Keller ~

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