to Ashley, who showed me beauty not as I see it, but as it is.
The question was posed: how is beauty communicated? In my arrogance, I thought that I could answer this challenge without first addressing what beauty is. A friend was quick to show me the error of my ways.
Her position is that beauty is what is. Though it is certainly subjective, the quality of beauty is persistent across observation, and should stand on its own, regardless of observer. In other words, imagine that no one had seen Dali’s “The Persistence of Memory”. This painting would be no less beautiful the first time it was seen if that had been hundreds of years or just a few minutes. Beauty does not age as fine wine; it is rather a quality, a constant, of that which is beautiful.
I had maintained that beauty is the constant in the inconsistent. the immutable in the mist of mutation. Beauty is communicated in what exists beyond change. But she posited a beauty that lies deeper, and though it demanded observation, existed independent and out of the reach of an observer.
This is the key: beauty may be in the eye of the beholder, but this has little to do with either the eye or the beholder. Beauty itself demands to be beheld.
And this leads us to both the answer to our question and the underlying definition of beauty itself. What makes beauty beautiful is highly subjective, in that no two people may ever completely agree on what makes a thing of beauty beautiful. The Greeks were right to appreciate the Golden Mean, though this in itself does not contain beauty. Some modernists claim that beauty exists in the ignoble, and here too they may be right.
What makes beauty beautiful is, at heart, exactly what allows its beauty to be communicated. Put simply “beauty” demands to be experienced. It seeks to be observed and appreciated, not to validate its beauty, but because of it. Beauty is shared, because beauty needs to be shared, exists to be shared, is to be shared.
And this leaves us with not just an understanding of how beauty is communicated, but what beauty is… Beauty is exactly what it is. Nothing more, nothing less, only beauty.
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