Beauty Examined – Part 1

March 27, 2008

A number of fascinating, coordinating searches have lead me back to the concept of beauty. I am beginning to learn that beauty is much more powerful a reality than I first imagined. The further I looked into it, the more complicated and ominous the subject became.

Take this verse in Psalm 27 for example:

Psalm 27:4

4 One thing I ask of the Lord,

this is what I seek:

that I may dwell in the house of the Lord

all the days of my life,

to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord

and to seek him in his temple.

David speaks of the “beauty of the Lord” as something he is seeking after in the house of the Lord. But what are we always told about beauty: That ‘it’ (beauty) is in the eye of the beholder. The implication is that all things can be beautiful if someone sees them that way. As prosaic as this subjective view of beauty really is, there is little to recommend that viewpoint. God Himself has beauty whether you or I agree upon it. God by definition is absolute and complete beyond any of our opinions. Therefore, there is beauty which exists apart from anyone’s opinion of it. Evolutionary biologists suggest that beauty is found in being most average. Really? That is what they believe. For instance, there are 22 measurements of symmetry in the human body (ears, eyes, breasts, shoulders, legs, etc., etc.). The more these features are symmetrical, the more beautiful someone is perceived…even by babies. The more a person looks like the average person of that race or culture, the more they are perceived as beautiful…even by babies. (We can tell that babies find someone pleasing by their facial and vocal reactions). Symmetry and culturally normal features make beauty. But do they? God is spirit, yet God has a beauty that cannot be denied. Can something be beautiful even if no one acknowledges that beauty?

There is a theory that Eve had a dynamic beauty that took Adam’s breath away. And I contend that Adam and Eve were more focused on the spirit realm bfore the fall of man than the physical (after all, once their eyes were opened, they saw the physical for the first time as important…they hid, the covered up etc.). Eve had a beauty that must have been more than physical, emanating from the deepest parts of who she was.

I was reading a book last week on Body Dysmorphic Disorder (BDD), an all-too common emotional problem. With BDD, a person obsesses over one physical feature that they believe is damaged or marred, whether this is true or not. A classic example of this would be a pop singer who thinks their nose is ugly, so they go through surgery after surgery to correct it; and end up creating an ugly proboscis. BDD patients not only obsess over body parts, but they can think of little else. They are convinced everyone is staring at their nose, their hair, their breasts, their tummy, their skin all the time. Even when they actually have a deformity, if it isn’t the same one that they have been obsessing on, they will ignore it and just focus on their supposed defect. It can destroy their school life, home life, love life. They are firmly encamped in the idea that they can never be beautiful or even normal. Beauty is always elusive to them. This obsession seems to have an ideal behind it: Is it possible that sufferers of BDD actually have an intuitive sense of beauty and are devastated because their fear and shame get in the way of finding it?

Is that what the daughters of Eve are always pining away for? Is that what the sons of Adam wish they could recapture? Is beauty a quality of life? And if it is, can we have it and not know it? Can we have it for awhile and lose it? Will we know it if we see it in others and in nature? Can it be found in nature? Is it found in all of nature? These are some of the questions that come up when I look at Beauty.

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