Does beauty need to be defended? Yeah, well, if those spectacular concrete jungles are any indication of the direction we are heading, then yes, I believe beauty does need to be defended. I like to joke that in another life, I would have been a city planner because I think we have lost some of our appreciation for functional and beautiful things.
In the art world, art school no longer emphasizes training in the traditional methods, but instead focuses on kitschy gimmicks to gain attention. That’s why so many of us hide behind hands when we are in an art gallery these days. Beauty is lost. We are lost. At least, I am as to why a pile of underwear can be passed off as MODERN ART and sold for $3,500. Beauty, absurdly enough, is considered dated. For extra credit, I encourage you to watch Roger Scruton’s documentary on Why Beauty Matters.
I also like what Sali Sasaki has to say about beauty, exploring the question, What is beauty? and how it is a journey, it’s unexpected and it lives in the spaces between here and over there. This way of seeing beauty reminded me of the lost art of thinking, understanding and all the struggles that come with it.
I don’t think we would be in the global warming predicament if we had remembered beauty. There is nothing beautiful about the excessive use of plastic and toxic chemicals we allow to be belched into the air we breathe and share. If we had remembered beauty, I don’t think we in the United States would have even considered cutting out the arts in education and replacing it with fill-in-the-bubble testing. I want to believe that public education, education for all, would not be threatened in a more beautiful world.
There is not only tangible beauty, but beauty in thoughts and actions, and we need that kind of beauty as well.
We are a bit obsessed over phrases like: “this too shall pass” or “everything will be okay” and “think positive”. All of which I’m for, but against the dismissive wave these phrases provide in lieu of the serious problems that plague our societies. Nobody really wants to be told any of these things when they’ve lost their job, when they are drowning under the staggering weight of medical expenses or student loans, or when there feels like there isn’t any justice in this world. Why are the bad guys winning? And what the hell is up with the 1%?
Interestingly, this post came about when I was taking pictures of the flowers in my little area. When I lived in Chiang Mai, I loved my apartment, but my surroundings were very ugly, trashy and smelly. Now that I live in Chiang Rai, my house and the surroundings are much more pleasing.
The landlady has carefully integrated a variety of plants, flowers, water features, and fish ponds into the landscape. We are big fans of fishes because they eat mosquitoes, so we brought some over from CM. In fact, we put the guppies in the water pots near Thae Phae Gate (among other places). I hope they are okay.
The landlady also invited us to pick fresh basil, tomatoes, lime leaves and other foods since she knows I cook. It’s been really lovely to live in a place that is mostly peaceful, beautiful to look at, and serves a function, too. It’s soothing to be surrounded by growing and green life.
And the roof around the tree! This was a perfect discovery. I was looking down at the leaves that I needed to sweep (I have been sweeping almost everyday), when I decided to look up to see where the leaves were coming from – and that is when I noticed the way the roof was build around the tree.
What is your definition of beauty? What is beauty to you?