This coming week I am fortunate to participate in a seminar sponsored by the FRN at NYU in New York City. The topic of my seminar is on beauty. We have yet to meet as I post this but the leader, David Konstan, asked that we right a page or two abut our own idea of beauty. I look forward to the other participants as their fields range from literature to design to fashion to accounting. The interest among so many diverse discipplines is the first clue that defining beauty will not be easy. What could we all possibly have in common? I worry that in the very act of defining beauty we will be pinning the butterfly to the board. While we have it there for us to inspect, have we loss the butterfly in the process? So I think I will simply point to examples and wait to see where our ‘team’ collectively goes this week.
I do not want to limit my thinking to the visual but I will start there. Here are a collection of images, each of which I would suggest is beautiful (which could be seen as shameless plug in some cases for my skills as a photographer–never mind) or depicts the beautiful. I have chosen images here to speak for me and you will find people, landscapes, art, architecture, and animals included.
But what of the non-visual examples? Well, in music I cannot begin to choose. So many… But here is one:
And while again, literature abounds and I defer to the experts, my current poet choices would be Charles Wright and Mary Oliver.
By highlighting beauty as multifaceted I think we can allow for some “ugliness” to be included. the beautiful is not the pretty. But that should wait for further reflection. I suppose in the end I am in the Platonic camp: beauty is the longing for the eternal, the acknowledgement of the effervescence of life that is both tragic, beauty, and our destiny.