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wundayatta's avatar

What does beauty mean?

Asked by wundayatta (58321 points ) March 16th, 2009

I’m not asking what beauty is, or how you decide something is beautiful. I want to know what it means to you. When you decide something is beautiful, do you feel differently about it? Does it take up a special place in your mind? What do you associate with beauty? Is it always good?

I have this feeling that we place great importance on beauty. What is that importance? Is it justified? Does beauty mean different things to different people? I hope to find out.

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23 Answers

patg7590's avatar

if I can see God in it, or through it; that’s beauty.

Darwin's avatar

If something is beautiful it makes my mind sing to observe it. Thus I try to surround myself with things I think are beautiful. I don’t know, and don’t really care, if others find the same things beautiful that I do. It is my nest and I shall feather it as I wish.

When you decide something is beautiful, do you feel differently about it? Yes, I want to look at it, feel it, hear it, think about it.

Does it take up a special place in your mind? Yes, a golden central place where I keep good things.

What do you associate with beauty? Peace, happiness, contentment, joy.

Is it always good? In objects or creatures who do not care how they appear, yes. In people it is a mixed blessing when it is physical beauty but good when it is inner beauty.

What is that importance? For me it is calming, energizing, joyful.

Is it justified? I certainly think so. It is part of my effort to stay sane and keep doing work I don’t like but that is important.

Does beauty mean different things to different people? I am sure it does. There are things I know are beautiful that others think are nothing special. For some it is only physical beauty.

bigbanana's avatar

nature. water. music. love. spirituality. figuring out who I am on/in this journey.

megs's avatar

Beauty to me is natural.

aviona's avatar

We just had a big discussion about this in my Women’s Studies class. It was mostly in regards to the Dove Campaign for Real Beauty. When this ad campaign first came out most of us thought “Oh wow, how progressive!” Because they were portraying, older women, bigger women, women of color, women with freckles as beautiful.
Beauty will always be in the eye of the beholder, though, and beauty is ingrained in a society. So even though these women may be bigger, older, of color, or have freckles, they still conform to beauty standards of our western society. Maybe they are pushing the envelope a little bit, since our first reaction was “Wow, how revolutionary!” But really, they’re telling you, to be beautiful you need to buy anti-wrinkle cream, or anti-cellulite gel, or what have you.

So, beauty is deep-rooted in society. You can’t force someone to think something or someone is beautiful. As @megs “beauty is natural.” So maybe natural objects such as waterfalls or rainbows or mountain ranges are cross-culturally viewed as beautiful. I do not know, I have not done enough research.

Really the phrase is “beauty is in the eye of the beholder of a particular culture.” Who knows, maybe that’s what it was originally and they cut the second half because it’s not quite as catchy.

augustlan's avatar

I can’t describe it, but I know it when I see it. ;-)

When I perceive beauty, whether it’s a natural sunset, or human created art, music, etc… it makes me happy.

NaturalMineralWater's avatar

When you decide something is beautiful, do you feel differently about it?
Yes.

Does it take up a special place in your mind?
Yes.

What do you associate with beauty?
My jaw dropping.

Is it always good?
Yes. Something bad is something bad regardless of its outer shell. It could be amazing maybe.. but not beautiful.

I have this feeling that we place great importance on beauty. What is that importance?
As we get older we learn some things aren’t as beautiful as we thought.. and other things are far more beautiful than we’d ever imagined. The importance is in that lesson.

Is it justified? Does beauty mean different things to different people?
Initially it means different things.. as we get older.. approach death.. I think it begins to mean some of the same things to a lot of people.

Sellz's avatar

@patg7590 I agree with you 100%

-Sellz

MooKoo's avatar

Beauty to me is something that feels me with Joy, or makes me feel wonderful and happy. Simple as that.

mdrnmouse's avatar

a hot girl on my lap

wundayatta's avatar

@mdrnmouse: I am not asking what beauty is. I want to know what it means to you when you find something to be beautiful? Does it mean it’s good, bad, desirable, distant, not to be touched, something to be grabbed, touched by God, more important than other things, separate from other things, elevated above other things, the same as other things only more attractive. What?

If beauty is a hot girl on your lap, then what does that mean to you? Does it make you feel better about yourself? Do you think you’re lucky? Do you think you’ve gotten over on someone? Does it mean you are about to get laid? Or an erection?

z28proximo's avatar

Good? Beauty isn’t always good. It can be very terrible and frightening. Ever percieve a thunderstorm as beautiful? What about a wild tiger?

I was just thinking yesterday about angels. Angels are always thought of as so very beautiful and perfect, of course. But in the bible, every time an angel shows up, the first thing it always says is “Do be afraid.” When David saw an angel, and all his troops did not, his troops were still so afraid they just started running. They knew something very frightening was happeneing and just took off. Yet angels are indeed beautiful, described as having skin or gleaming bronze, a face of lightning, eyes of burning torches, and a voice that sounds like a multitude.

Whatever I find beautiful I tend to desire more of it. If it is a place or an experience I want to do it more, if it is a thing or a person, I want more of them.

I believe that beauty is inspiring. And that whenever it is found it gives rise to more emotions than just awe. Wether it’s love, lust, courage, fear, dread, or somewhere in between. And for that reason I need it in my life. I find beauty in living a life in tune with my creator. Every breathe I take becomes beautiful and He reveals things that inspire me and make me more whole.

Beauty has a way of being whole in and of itself. It doesn’t need anything extra, it’s beautiful just the way it is. In this way can’t things be sought after just to fill a hole in our own hearts? Fill a hole with something whole?

wundayatta's avatar

I think beauty is amoral. Neither good nor bad. It’s just a word to describe our appreciation of something. We can appreciate all kinds of things: good, bad, indifferent.

I drive past a tank farm on the way to the airport. Just after it, there is a business that tears about cars for recycling. The city made the company put up a fence, so visitors wouldn’t see this blemish on the face of the city.

Personally, I really love that business. I love the piles of torn-up metal. I love the concept of recycling and aethetically, I find it moving. Do I want more of it? Well, depends what more means. I’d love to be able to walk through those piles of scrap and see the crushers at work. But I don’t want the city filled with the things.

Like you, @z28proximo, I see beauty everywhere, in all of what you call God’s creation. My environment is an amazing and beautiful thing. Even trash blowing down the street can be beautiful.

I think beauty means appreciation. A particular kind of appreciation. Where you see things, and get this peculiar internal jolt that makes it impossible to pass it by without looking, and wanting to look more. Maybe even to live with it.

It means appreciation, and also, desire. You are so moved that you want it, to be with it more often. I think it actually has a bit of a consumeristic side. If it’s beautiful, you want to consume it in whatever way is appropriate. If it’s Yosemite, you want to stare; if it’s a painting, you want to take it home and live with it; if it’s a beautiful woman (or man), you want to possess her or him in that ultimate way of possession.

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bright_eyes00's avatar

Beauty is something different to everyone. In outer appearance (for either gender), you could be a gorgeous 10 super model with the perfect body and be as ugly as a pile of cow dung. Someone could have a scarred face with a huge nose and have a pear shaped body with odd proportions and be as beautiful as the sunset over the ocean. Beauty is something that everyone has to find within. A rose is beautiful. The mountains covered in snow are beautiful. The ocean in Alaska is gorgeous. A newborn calve is beautiful. An old married couple holding hands on a walk is beautiful. A poem written for your mother, honoring all she’s done for you is beautiful. Words can be beautiful. So can inanimate objects. People, surprisingly, can be beautiful despite the way we have become. So dependent on society’s perception and desperately seeking a way to meet those standards set by altered photographs on magazines or bodies pieced together by plastic and needles. Aspiring to that end makes one less beautiful. it becomes a vain quest and for some an obsession. that makes a person ugly. that lessens the beauty that we all are given on the day we are born. we can either live our lives to increase that beauty or we can fall onto that selfish, self-absorbed, self-destructive path that leads only to sadness…what a world we’ve come to when a person has to ask others what they perceive as beautiful. we should all see it. @daloon good question. thanks for asking it. maybe one day people will slow down and rethink their view on what truly is beauty, on what truly deserves our attention and time. i agree with you. beauty is an appreciation, maybe thats why people see it so differently because we all appreciate different things from life

wundayatta's avatar

@bright_eyes00: so, let me see if I understand you. I’m going to extrapolate a little bit in order to get a perspective on my question.

It sounds to me like you think there is a natural component to beauty. So beauty means naturalness—a thing or a person is right where they fit, just as they are. A kind of essentialness (if that means anything).

Beauty also means something that is inbuilt in someone’s consciousness. It’s just there. It is known. Not something that anyone else can tell you. So if someone tells you they find something beautiful, they are actually letting you in on a piece of who they are.

Anyway, that’s what I’m guessing you would say beauty means.

This is a very personal sense of the meaning of beauty, which probably makes sense, given your approach to this question. I wonder if you would care to talk about what you think beauty means to the average person?

I believe that people think beauty means “good.” People assume if something is pleasing to the eye, it must be good. Therefore, ugly is bad. I believe that beauty means status for most people. It is a way of stratifying ourselves.

I think that I like your idea of beauty better. It seems more intrinsic, and not related to what everyone else thinks. However, I think your vision is difficult to achieve with tribal animals. We must agree, if we are to survive. Most societies don’t seem to have room for many individual standards of beauty, because beauty is used for many other things besides aesthetics.

Thank you for answering my question.

bright_eyes00's avatar

@daloon The way you put it sounds so much better than how i did, but yes. Overall i agree with you entirely on what you said regarding my approach to the subject. now where you talk of beauty to the average person, i think the overall consensus will be the skin deep version where people are concerned. You dont here people say “She’s a beautiful person.” you usually here “She’s beautiful.” Let me give you an example of the negative side of the first sentence. You’re getting set up on a blind date and ask your friend about the person you’ll be meeting up with. If he was to tell you that “Shes a beautiful person.” You will most likely automatically assume theres something wrong with her appearance. (Not talking about you specifically, ‘you’ is refering to the average joe-shmoe). Thats pretty much how i feel the world has come to define beauty. At least our media centered world sees what the skin offers and not what the brain exhibits.

I agree with you that society as a whole cannot see my version of beauty but i do like to believe that there are those, like yourself, who have the capacity to witness more than what your eyes can see.

topper7477's avatar

I feel beauty happens only when honesty is shown in somone or something. For me, beauty is love, happiness, selflessness, kindness, genuine. for example, my partner is loving, respectful, honest, likeable, religious, and kind. In my opinion, this all amounts up to her being Beautiful.

Noel_S_Leitmotiv's avatar

Beauty is the promise of happiness.

cold_cut's avatar

beauty to me is all about simplicity and the innocence of it/in it. Beauty to me is all heart and soul. An innocent smile of a child, to an honest laughter and joy..a beautiful scenary, a persons honest nature without no boundaries and the able to think, speak, act and choose right :)

schna's avatar

Beauty is everything you don’t want it to be taken away from where it is, because you believe they are JUST in their right places.You are afraid if they are spoiled, damaged or contaminated because they are purely beautiful.

hotgirl67's avatar

Beauty me is something that has a pleasing quality and characteristic.It is graceful.

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