What Is Beauty?

After I wrote the blog below about winter holidays in Cornwall it got me thinking about the things we love, what we might consider beautiful, be it music, a picture, a scene, and that got me questioning how much of our perception of beauty is conditioned.

Let’s consider that love of winter.

When I was in my teens would I have loved walking through the rain?

Or would I have sulked because all I wanted to do was ride my bike, and while I could have gone out in the rain, getting wet from the outset is so grim on a bike I couldn’t countenance it now, let alone back then.

But what changed my perception?

Maybe it was having dogs. You have to go out with them a few times a day, so you’re likely to get pretty wet now and then. You could moan about it, but you might as well accept it, and even try to enjoy it.

You’re out there for a couple of hours a day, and sometimes your head is full of work, often mine is full of plans, but then at other times you can just absorb what’s around you. The sea, the cliffs, wildlife, just the cows even. Or when I’m in the north it may be the Mersey and the woods of Chorlton Ees around it.

When you start paying attention then hopefully you’ll realise a delight in the bare trees as well as those with leaves. When they’re dark, dank even, under the rains that don’t even dry before the next downfall. The gradual decay of the fallen branches, the encroaching mosses, weeds, brambles are not something to be religiously cleaned away but enjoyed for a while.

But is this beauty?

It’s certainly not what I was taught to like.

But just like abstract art, when something is pointed out, or better still, explained, suddenly it has new meaning, is more likely to be noticed.

Which lead to the question about being conditioned to consider one thing beautiful, but not the next thing, despite the fact that it’s loved by someone else.

I love my interior immaculate, approaching the Pawson, but I’m beginning to realise a new beauty in the random and unkempt of the outside world. And I’m massively lucky in having two distinct bases that offer the excitement of a landscape altered by man, but gradually being reclaimed by nature.

So different tastes. Are they to do with our parents, our friends, what we watch on TV? And what does it take to break away?

Some years back we lived near the artists Gilbert and George. I’d often see them out walking with Kanga, our Irish Terrier. Following them down the street was an education in itself. The tall one (sorry G&G, I never remember which of you is which) would be forever pointing stuff out and then they’d discuss it. A bird, a gutter, brick work, good stuff, bad stuff. I’m so grateful. Just by following them I leaned to look up, look around, not just look at the street. I have probably tripped more as a consequence, but it’s not a bad price to pay.

Perhaps beauty is just something we don’t have but hanker after?

Perhaps it’s just age?



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