ON BEAUTY

Margaret Wolfe Hungeford coined the expression “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder” in her novel Molly Bawn, written in 1878. I wonder about that sometimes. Are we all arbiters of our own standard of beauty or is Beauty a standard above and beyond the limitations of any one human? I think Edgar Allan Poe was on to something when he wrote of Beauty as a phenomenon that elevates the soul, a force that has an intensity and a purity that is a reflection of some higher purpose. If something is truly beautiful it elicits a spiritual response and as such can be considered a fundamental human need, as much as food and a roof over our heads are needs. Beauty infuses purpose, its pursuit is edifying, its ramications are universal. Nature is the ultimate standard of beauty, in my opinion, and the human being is an integral part of that construct — some would argue it’s the manifestation of the divine in the physical world. If this is indeed the case, the artist plays a crucial role in the advancement of civilization. It is the artist who translates the intangible into the tangible, it is the artist who, when truly inspired, opens doors that might otherwise not be opened. One can debate what the definition of true inspiration really is, question the validity of certain types of expression, but the acid test, I would argue, is whether the fruit of such endeavors elevates humanity and the human spirit. If so, that is Beauty in its truest sense.

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