Friday, July 30, 2010


Since time immemorial, beauty has been among the things most desired by man, placed next only to money. It intrigues me sometimes, what is this beauty? What is this elusive, formless, and yet so desirable entity that is promised in advertisements, sold in tubes and praised in songs? What is so special about it, that makes us seek it, covet it or nowadays, get makeovers to attain it? Let us to explore this question.

The first thing about beauty is that it always carries the human touch or in general, nature's imprint. Would you call a printout of text beautiful? If it is written in colorful Wordart or attractive font, then? Most of us would not.

But we do find handwriting beautiful. The same goes for paintings and other works of art. Mountains are beautiful, so are rivers and waterfalls. Notice how all these things are imperfect, in one way or the other. No two paintings are alike, nor are the brushstrokes within a single painting, some darker and some lighter than the others. Same can be said for letters of a beautiful, handwritten text. Mountains that all vary in height, the vagarious colours of the sky and the different hues of the ocean, all imbibe this imperfection.

So if it is not about being perfect,(i.e. something that TV commercials want you to believe) what is beauty about?
Beauty, is about balance; and not symmetry. What we often fail to grasp is that one can exist without the other. Symmetry can ignore balance, while balance might not need symmetry. A kilogram of cotton and a kilogram of iron nails balance each other on a scale, don't they?

It is also easy to mistake prettiness for beauty. How long do we take to judge if a dress (or maybe the girl wearing it) is pretty? How many glances do we take? Two, maybe three. Whatever the time, whatever be the number of glances, we make a judgement using notions that already exist inside our head. Canons and benchmarks that have been shaped by all our external influences -fashion, tradition, culture etc. Appreciation of beauty, on the other hand, is not that straightforward. It takes time.

It often takes a Masters in mathematics to appreciate the beauty of equations and profound maturity to appreciate the verse of Keats and T.S. Elliot. Prettiness for all its worth, is not even a prerequisite for beauty.

There is a small creature on this planet. It has pink-tinged wrinkled skin and imperfect features. It is also an irritant and source of inconvenience to all around it. Yet far from calling it a nuisance, we all agree that a newborn baby is one of the most beautiful things in the world. This, in itself, explains a lot about beauty.

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