Wednesday, July 13, 2011

The Beauty Experience

In Quest for Fire, a masterpiece motion picture, we observe three primitive men searching for a new source of fire. At one point they meet a woman from another tribe. Something happens and she starts laughing. The three men look at the laughing woman in amazement.
Laughter was not always known to mankind.

I wonder when beauty was first experienced, how did that happen?
Here’s how Merriam-Webster defines Beauty:  the quality or aggregate of qualities in a person or thing that gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.

Oops, again the mind, the spirit, notions that for thousands of years we haven’t been agreeing on a definition. Beauty is therefore anchored in uncertainty and mostly, in Subjectivity (Beauty is in the eye of the beholder). And I think it is a very good thing not to be able to define Beauty! As long as we understand that the birth of a Beauty Experience depends on the subject who experiences Beauty, the person or object that provokes that and probably the context. (try a Beauty Experience on a Bad Hair Day…)

However, the capacity of experiencing Beauty, along with other engaging moments of the spirit, hardly ever has anything to do with the imposed morality of the moment. Hardly has anything to do with what others tell you. In other words, if you like Mona Lisa because you were told you would like Mona Lisa (millions of people can’t be wrong, she IS Beautiful), then your experience is not entirely personal. Which is OK.

Let’s imagine the following scenario: you go to a museum you know nothing about. The building has a comforting architecture, it fades in the background, nothing shouts at you. The light is good, you had a good meal, no worries on your mind in this particular moment. You turn the corner and enter the only room of the museum. In front of you a life size realistic painting of a Nude Pope. He is in his late 70s, standing, behind him you can imagine it’s the papal throne. His flamboyant garments are dropped on the floor. He still wears the tiara, adorned with lots of precious stones. In one hand he holds his stick (whatever). The other hand is slightly raised in a gesture of joy, like touching an invisible shape that needs caresses. His eyes seem happy. He experiences a moment of Beauty, something he imagines or remembers, we don’t know. One can notice his small erection. The painting is entitled “The Last Erection”.
How would you experience looking at this painting? I suppose you’re a man that has never had sex with other men, not even fantasized about sex with other men. Or you’re gay but not physically attracted by old men. Would you find the painting beautiful? If so, why? If you don’t, why not?

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