Sunday, June 5, 2011

Functional Aesthetics

Aesthetics as best I can understand it is the study of beauty. In a more minimal sense aesthetics is what is achieved when your throw blanket compliments the accents in your drapes, which are reflected nicely in the mirror because of the picture sitting next to it. So my question starting out is what do you find beautiful? Is it the chilled peaks of the Colorado Rockies or the Pieta at the Vatican? Is it the Egyptian pyramids or the Great Coral Reef? Maybe for some it is more simple than that, something like a three layer chocolate cake or the way your wife’s hair looks when she is first out of bed in the morning.

One thing all human beings do is to seek out beauty, whatever beauty may mean to you. Living in a world of function I am finding myself looking for beauty in different places. It is no longer just in the arts that I seek our beauty or even in views of nature. The sunset from the back porch of Angel House is breathtaking, but it is slightly marred by the trash brought on by the lack of any well run waste management company. Living in a place where so much is about function and so little time or resources are concerned about making something aesthetically pleasing, I am beginning to understand what people here see as beautiful…and I am starting to agree.

In America the too thin model is seen as the epitome of the female form, yet here beauty is seen in a woman that is healthy, meaning there is some weight beyond the skin and bones to be measured. This is because health is seen as more beautiful than forced perfection. The art of arranging food is passed up for having an abundance of food, enough for your family and your neighbors, because being able to share with the community is a thing of beauty.   The soaring picturesque landscape of a mud-brick house set against a field of corn is replaced with the view of a solid brick, plaster house with a tin roof and a wall, because it shows the security that a person is able to provide for their family. The art of aesthetics is taught in a different school when you live in a society of function.

So let me close with asking, what does God’s view of aesthetics look like? I feel like this is an important question for everyone, regardless of your religious expression, because while I have a definitive idea of who God is, everyone has a god they worship as supreme and a good judge of that god is what is his/their/its view of beauty? My God created flowers, by also healed the blind with spit and mud. He inspired Michelangelo’s Madonna, and washed dirty feet. He brought the waters together to form Niagara Falls and accepted as praise a man dancing in his underwear. What does he view as beautiful and what can we do to make him smile in the same way that I smile when I see the Angel House kids’ excitement over a celebration meal (it’s a lot of food and includes meat).

“Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”
-          Philippians 4: 8

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