Friday, March 27, 2009

Top 10 Beautiful Things

Beauty. It has been said that beauty is in the eye of the beholder. This could not be more true. If beauty were absolute, then only 5% of people would actually get together and beer sales would be surprisingly stagnant.

Beauty is defined as the following:
a characteristic of a person, place, object, or idea that provides a perceptual experience of pleasure, meaning, or satisfaction.

That definition is so broad that you could make beauty out to be nearly anything. Anything BUT an insult. Nothing described as beautiful in earnest ever took offense. On the other hand Beautiful can be used at the height of Irony. Take my last weekend playing tennis for example. I hit such a bad shot that I yelled 'Beautiful!'. All knew my meaning for what it was. So I started thinking about beauty because it appears to be something worth looking for and having attributed to yourself. So I will attempt to list my 10 beautiful things. Be forewarned, this list will not include my wife, my kids, my mom, or anyone else that I think is beautiful because I am limiting this list and therefore my liability to places, objects and ideas that I think are beautiful.

1. photographs - There is something about really old pictures that has a haunting beauty. These are people that are long dead and buried, but the photograph was such a novelty and such a great way of preserving that moment in time that it is amazingly beautiful. I see pictures of my mom as a new mom in the early 70's and when I see the style of dress and hair etc, I used to just laugh, but now I look at them and it simply captures the essence of that time. Then I look at pictures of great grandparents and distant relatives that have no idea that I would spring forth from their lineage. These pictures were not cheap and they were not instant. Cameras now are everywhere and recordings of our every coming and going are available on demand, but the beauty of the simple photograph still remains even though it has become much more pedestrian. To say a picture is worth a thousand words is really underselling a picture.

2. Communism - What? Mark is a pinko commie? No of course not, not at all. But the concept of communism is really beautiful. The idea that all people would communally and willingly give up all of their possessions to make all of society a greater good. The concept that we would all willingly care for the poor and indigent and provide our talents with no more thought than to simply have our needs met. beautiful. The idea that everyone would work as hard as they could and never avoid labor to commit their substance to the good of all is simple and beautiful. Of course humans are not built in this fashion. In fact, we can only be counted on for one thing and that is to take what we can when we can. Sure there are some exceptions, but where the idea of Communism is beautiful, the practice of communism is simply corrupt and abhorrent. No matter where it is tried, the laborer is reduced to a group of people dedicated to working as little as possible because they know that their needs will be met. Those in overseeing positions are reduced to greedy money grubbing power hungry jerks that are only looked at with ire. Beautiful in concept because it embodies what the best traits of humanity are. But horrid in practice because it forgets to take into account our failings and our drive. I think if there were no shortage of anything and everyone lived forever, communism would work out pretty well. Then again, if you can live forever and you don't need anything, what wouldn't work?

3. Children - Kids are truly beautiful. Before we, and society, have trained them to become the neurotic scheming false adults that we all are, children are pure and without guile. They assume that everything is done for their best interests and whenever small children see that they can help or laugh or smile, they do. A child's laugh is as genuine a noise as exists. It comes out because something is genuinely funny to them without a care as to weather or not it is funny to anyone else. They haven't learned to build a laugh that is socially acceptable yet. They haven't learned that some things shouldn't be funny even if they are. Exceptionally beautiful.

4. Lies - No, Mark, Lies are ugly dark things that are the exact opposite of beauty. I suppose it depends on your definition. A lie is anything that creates a perception in the observer that is contrary to the reality of that thing or event. It is designed to deceive. In many many many cases we really do want to be deceived. The simplest of things would be fine artwork. We are given a picture on a canvass that looks to be in 3 dimensions even though it is clearly only in 2. This is a lie, and one we all appreciate more the better it is executed. Of course other lies are less clear, but lets look at Disneyland. The whole park is built on the most successful telling of a series of lies, and yet we pay very real money to be lied to for a day. The better the lie, the more we like it. I'm sorry, in many instances, the lie in the correct sphere, is beautiful.

5. Certain songs - When you turn on the radio and hear a song that you haven't heard in ages and it immediately takes you to a time and place that is anchored forever to that song. It is a thing of beauty. Floods of memories return that you never thought you would ever recall. The only thing more powerful than music when magically recalling events would be the smells of those same events. To digress to Disney once again, whenever I hear the Disney theme song of the 70's 'When you wish upon a Star' I am immediately whisked back to the living room of my house in Arkansas. Where most Sunday Evenings we would watch the Wonderful World of Disney. What a great memory. Sometimes the music is much more memorable the then accompanying smell. And still, I believe this is why there are very few memories that involve music and chili cook offs.

6. The middle of a perfect vacation - My dearest hope and wish for all of my friends is that some day they have the best vacation of their lives. I think by definition they all will eventually have it. The best thing that happens on the perfect vacation is that you stop for just a moment and realize that you are perfectly at ease and perfectly happy with your surroundings. You have few if any cares and you are appreciating the moment for what it is. You take a picture, you write a line or two in a vacation journal and then the moment has vanished. But that single moment will carry you for many many years as you look back on a great time with family and friends.

7. You or your team wins - If you ever have had the chance to compete in anything you are of course familiar with the concept of winning and losing. One is always good and the other is always bad. There is no gray area. it is perfectly black and white. There is a winner and a looser. Many times the events that decide the winner or the loser are somewhat cloudy. But if you ever have the opportunity to practice hard and dedicate yourself to a particular sporting event and you come to the end and by your skill and just the right amount of luck you find yourself on the top of that event. I'd rather be lucky than good? That's crap, you might need a little luck to win, but if you aren't good, all luck will get you is a free small fry at MickyDees. Winners aren't made with luck, they take advantage of it. For that brief moment, you or your team are in fact the best at that event. My wife would say 'who cares, why does it matter in the least?' The winners care, and the losers care and they wouldn't work so hard to win an event if it weren't a beautiful feeling. This isn't to say that there isn't virtue in losing and there can't be shame in winning. Of course that's possible. Just as anything that is beautiful can be perverted into something that is ugly.

8. Culmination of hard work and planning - This is an analog to winning in team sports. But with this beauty, it is self contained. The beauty of a job well done. If you work really hard to create something and you plan and work and eventually come up with a masterpiece that only you can appreciate in its intricacy and difficulty. That is a beautiful moment. This master work can be in any field of endeavor and you will know it when you have done it. It will usually take more work than anyone would normally put into such an event, and it will probably go largely unappreciated but by the very few. While I hack away at these top 10 lists every 2 weeks or so I still think of the book that I have stopped writing. Perhaps one day I will work on it again.

9. A great coincidence - It's nearing the end of my top 10 list and we haven't seen anything about babies being born or marriage or any of that. Well here it is. The beauty of the great coincidence. Well THATS not very romantic. Of course it is. What is more romantic than the chance meeting that will eventually create the most amazing highs and lows in your life? No matter how your relationship ends it will create a series of events that will effect you forever. The chance meeting because you forgot you needed to return a book. The friend of a friend that introduced you even though the friend had a crush on you. The off handed remark that you never thought meant anything but instead meant everything. All of these great coincidences have created a meeting story for a couple and much more. The events of nearly every birth have a great coincidence story attached to them. If you take those two events out of your life, you can still point to great coincidences and say 'wow, if I had left 2 minutes sooner, that accident would have been me' and they are beautiful in their own way. They seem to crystallize something that has very little chance of ever happening again, but for some reason always will.

10. Chaos - What is beautiful about chaos? the same thing that is beautiful about order just the opposite. There is beauty in balance and harmony. There is also beauty in discord and chaos. sometimes we look at our lives that we try every day to add balance and order to and it never quite measures up. You go out into nature and for some reason everything is exactly as it should be and is completely chaotic. There is a lot of theories to this beauty in chaos (I think it's called chaos theory, duh). But my theory is that we appreciate balance and harmony because it is obvious that we create it. there is very little in the way of balance in nature but rather a balancing act. Plants and animals ebb and flow in a grand dance that could not be more beautiful. If you have the opportunity to see the Planet earth series by the BBC you will probably get a better understanding of what I mean, because I'm really not doing it justice.

I'm sure you have many other things that you think of as beautiful. These were mine. I suppose my point is that it's pretty enjoyable to appreciate those elements in your life because if you don't, you're really missing out on a lot.

Thanks for coming by!


Cami Rochelle said...

Wow Mark, think that one may be your masterpiece! I think the creative power of a deep thinker is beautiful, you should be on the list. Very fascinating observations ...loved the one on lies (maybe because I am obsessed with the truth)!

Mikey said...

Gotta hand it to ya Mac, that one was quite poingiant. Particularly liked the Eye in the Sky album cover -- since many of the songs that take me back are on that album.