I think beauty comes from being comfortable with who we are. It’s an ease and a confidence with our selves and our surroundings. It is owning our particular perspective and trusting our ability. It is formulating educated opinions about art, philosophy, food, culture or books that we can stand behind. I think good ideas, bee hives, spindle chairs, grass, slab rock, intelligence, the colour of honey and the sound of Florence’s voice from Florence and the Machine are all beautiful. I think imagination, a clever turn of phrase, the way water crashes against cliffs and the smell of rain in the spring are beautiful. I think the way babies curl their tiny, vulnerable fingers around adult weathered fingers with pure curiosity and trust is beautiful.
You may think differently. Your aesthetic will be based on your life experiences. But the one common denominator might be the way something beautiful makes us feel. Because it’s not just what we see. It’s what we touch, hear and smell. Running a hand along a cool, smooth rock feels beautiful. The sound of water trickling is beautiful. The smell of fir trees is beautiful. The feel of your lover’s breath on your back as you spoon is beautiful.
And when we encounter something we consider beautiful, it makes us feel connected, hopeful, excited. And when we encounter something that we connect with, a person for example, we think that person beautiful. The deeper our connection to someone, the more beautiful they become. Their face doesn’t change, but how we feel about them does. The more we admire someone, the more attractive they are to us. The more we love them, the more beautiful they become.
But we don’t think of beauty as a cyclical connection or a long-term journey. We too often think of it in terms of the North American concept of beauty – the human facade. Women: Tall, thin, pale, smooth, blank, gaunt, whimsical. And men: Tall, thin, pale, smooth, blank, gaunt, strong. Our concept of beauty is based on something that clothes look good hanging from right now. On what layers of make-up and hair extensions create in the moment. On good reconstructive surgery. On airbrushed versions of people. Our concept of beauty is based on things that are not true – straightened teeth, shortened noses, whittled legs, enlarged breasts, thickened hair, extended lashes, engorged muscles.
That’s not beauty. Not really. That’s just barely skin-deep stuff.
I have a friend with eczema scars all over her legs. More than a few people have told her the scars are ugly. What they don't see, though, is how she can dance with those legs. It’s just fucking beautiful to watch. But still I can’t say what beauty is, to be honest. It’s too elusive. I can’t describe it without seeing it, feeling it, pointing to it and saying – “that there, that is beautiful.” And that in itself is kind of beautiful, isn’t it?
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