BY: JAMES F. O’NEIL
“Oh, say, can you see…”
Yes, I admit, I am always on the “look” out for things “beautiful.”
“Beauty is only skin deep.” “Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder.”
Yes, as I was often told, and taught in school, me with acne-filled pores.
“Beauty,” says Thomas Aquinas, is “That which seen pleases.” I had a more difficult time with this one saying, both in philosophy class and in my art history classes. [Aquinas…is still being interpreted.]
How do I know what beauty is? Will it be like pornography, as the Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart defined that: “I know it when I see it” [Jacobellis v. Ohio, 1964]? (Can pornography–whatever it is–be beautiful?) Therefore, seeing, looking then is pleasing.
Ah, the beauty of it all. Oh, that ‘57 Chevy, candy-apple red hardtop, so pleasing, so beautiful!
“One man’s trash is another’s treasure.” As in, “That was a beautiful garage sale.” Or, in American Pickers: “That Texaco sign is just in beautiful condition.”
And what about a beautiful Scotch? “Single-malt, 15-year-old: just beautiful. Look at that color!” However, what about the taste? No dispute, is there, with taste/tastes?
“Mmm, mmm good. Mmm, mmm good. Campbell’s soups are mmm, mmm good.” Andy Warhol could attest to that!
What do you like? Any favorites? Is it/are they “beautiful”? The kids? The small of a woman’s back (in Kevin Costner’s litany in Bull Durham)? The Mona Lisa?
But about Venus de Milo, the original, which I saw in the Louvre, not the #2 pencil, not Salvador Dali’s huge “magnificent” symbolic painting, but the original: How can it/she be “beautiful”? No arms. Measurements just not “right” [34”-31.2”-40.8”], or . . . . “Look at those hips!” Some beauty. Out of proportion. Proportion is that essential quality of beauty, says those aestheticians (those who decide what is aesthetic or “beautiful”–or “art”–and there is Thomas Aquinas, again).
And something beautiful is also supposed to be good because of integrity, wholeness. It’s “bad” (even sometimes originally translated as “evil”), from any little defect. (I have always mused over “flawed” and “flawless” diamonds, even those “beautiful” three-carat, “cloudy” ones!) [Our engagement ring, 51 years ago, was a AAA, 0.39-carat, about the only affordable “way back then.” But how beautiful!]
Aesthetics: too philosophical for me.
And so, what could be beautiful?
Could be a song or musical piece (“Moon River” or Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony); could be a color or something colorful (burnt sienna or a sunset over the Gulf of Mexico); could be a building (certainly nothing “Gaudi”!), like Hagia Sophia; could be a “babbling brook”; could be a Girl with a Pearl Earring, the book, the painting, the movie (how beautiful is that?!); could be that ice-cold RC Cola washing down a Moon Pie (Yum! Right beautiful!); could be all those older couples holding hands, older sisters, younger brothers; could be an emotionally charged and tear-evoking episode of Grey’s Anatomy, or a scene from Shakespeare in Love or Romeo and Juliet; could be a Serta, or Sealy Posturepedic for a beautiful night’s sleep.
Oh, I can’t get enough. Looking for the pleasures to be found in The Beautiful.
“O Beautiful, for spacious skies…amber waves of grain…mountain majesties….”
Can you see? See? Do you see what I see? Can you find the beauty? Are you looking?
Remember: “‘Beauty is truth, truth beauty,’”–that is all…ye need to know.” –John Keats
© JAMES F. O’NEIL 4 JULY 2014