Most people can appreciate beauty but cannot explain it. Over time our notion of beauty has changed. What once an experience that was considered to be beautiful may not be considered beautiful today. Being thin with a flat belly is experienced as beautiful today, but in the middle ages having a little belly was considered to be more beautiful. The rap music, not long ago wasn’t considered beautiful, but young people today seems to think it’s beautiful. I am sure our view of which experiences are beautiful and why they are beautiful will continue to change. This is because beauty is continually being affected by our past, our culture, and our personal growth. Because of this very nature it is difficult to define.
There is no definition of beauty, but when you can see someone’s spirit coming through, something unexplainable, that’s beautiful to me. Liv Tyler
What beauty is, I know not, though it adheres to many things. Albrecht Durer
You can’t really say what is beautiful about a place, but the image of the place will remain vividly with you. Tadao Ando
Indeed, there are strong opinions on whether beauty should even be defined. Howard Gardner in his book “ Truth, Beauty and Goodness Reframed” writes…
Consider the testimony of fine-art scholar Laurie Fendrich: “ We who live in this speedy, diverse, more or less democratic society are, deep down, fairly suspicious of beauty. Beauty is based on hierarchy that labels some things undeniably ‘beautiful’ and others irretrievably ugly. Most serious, inventive, and ‘alive’ contemporary artists do not want merely to reiterate elements of this established hierarchy.
He further goes on to shared how one philosopher, his teacher Nelson Goodman, has proposed a path toward a solution. He writes…
Just as a certain number or combination of symptoms suggests the presence of a disease, so, too, certain antecedent features prove “ symptomatic ” of artistic beauty. When these features are jointly absent, one cannot speak of artistic beauty.
I like this analogy of diagnosing disease being similar process to ‘diagnosing’ beauty!! I do that all the time!
So, you may ask if the experiences of beauty resist definition and it is difficulty to explain then why bother with it? Well, according to Maslow the pursuit of experiences that are beautiful, are crucial for personal development to a higher state of being. Wayne Weiten in his book Psychology: Themes and Variations writes…
Maslow argued that humans have an innate drive towards personal growth – that is, evolution towards a higher state of being. Thus, he describes the needs in the uppermost reaches of his hierarchy as growth need. These include the needs for knowledge, understanding, order, and aesthetic beauty. Foremost among them is the need for self – actualization, which is the need to fulfill one’s potential. It is the highest need in Maslow’s motivational hierarchy. Maslow summarized this concept with a simple statement: “ What a man can be, he must be.” According to Maslow, people will be frustrated if they are unable to fully utilize their talents or pursue their true interest. For example, if you have a great musical talent but must work as an accountant, or if you have a scholarly interest but must work as a sales clerk, your need for self actualization will be thwarted.
If you are still not convinced by Maslow’s theoretical concept of hierarchy, here’s what these authors’ Janice E. Hitchcock, Phyllis E. Schubert, Sue A. Thomas write in their book Community health nursing: caring in action, Volume 1…
In addition to benefiting from incredible beauty found in nature, persons need to create things of beauty. Artistic creation and the enjoyment of others’ work can serve as media for inner healing from deep emotional and spiritual wounds. Artistic self- expression through movement and other art forms demonstrate healing in the interpenetrating processes and pattern reorganization of the person – environment interrelationship. Many cultures use the beauty of dance to restore balance and harmony and to promote health and wholeness.
…Appreciation of beauty depends on one’s ability to perceive it and on one’s level of awareness, but these are difficult to assess. Maslow (1962) referred to appreciation of beauty as a self – actualizing process. It is unlikely, however, that only those persons whose basic needs have been met can respond therapeutically to beauty, as Maslow’s hierarchy of needs might suggest.
Because beauty is so important in our personal development it has been suggested by Howard Gardner that we should keep our own portfolio of beautiful objects and experiences. It would be our own record of idiosyncratic but deeply felt experiences and tastes. It could be something we think that’s awesome, or something that gives us a tingle in the spine, or something we repeatedly wants to visit which invites further exploration, or something sufficiently powerful or evocative that it will be remembered.
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. Confucius
We are learning, too, that the love of beauty is one of Nature’s greatest healers. Ellsworth Huntington
The love of beauty in its multiple forms is the noblest gift of the human cerebrum. Alexis Carrel
May you come to your own concept of what is beautiful; that’s perhaps richer and penetrates more deeply for spiritual and physical healing.
“ Truth, Beauty and Goodness Reframed” by Howard Gardner
“Community health nursing: caring in action, Volume by Janice E. Hitchcock, Phyllis E. Schubert, Sue A. Thomas
“Psychology: Themes and Variations” by Wayne Weiten